You can knock another potential arbitration case off the books. Winnipeg will be keeping Blake Wheeler around for a little while longer as they re-signed the restricted free agent to a two-year, $5.1 million deal.
Wheeler was set to go to arbitration with the Jets on August 3, but thanks to the new deal he’ll get to avoid the awkward dance in court between GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and himself. Last season with the Thrashers and Bruins, Wheeler scored 18 goals and added 26 assists in what was a bounce back season after his sophomore campaign the year before.
Throughout his three years in the NHL, Wheeler has been a steady producer averaging nearly 20 goals per season and over 40 points per year. While that kind of offense is good for a third liner, it doesn’t make him worthy of the draft position he was taken at back in 2004 as the fifth overall choice by Phoenix.
With a new start with the same team in a new location in Winnipeg, Wheeler will get top six forward minutes. Last season in Atlanta, Wheeler averaged nearly 19 minutes of ice time per game. Comparing that with what he had in Boston, it’s easy to see why Wheeler have 17 points in 23 games with the Thrashers. Through 58 games with Boston last season, Wheeler averaged less than 16 minutes and scored just 27 points.
With the opportunity to grow and get more ice time in Winnipeg, the two year commitment could pay off in the end for Wheeler. When this new deal ends he’ll be a restricted free agent once again with the chance to cash in better. Playing along side Evander Kane, Bryan Little, and Andrew Ladd should help him be more productive than not.