Blake Wheeler went into this summer with some options available to him as a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. He could have simply gotten a short-term deal out of the Winnipeg Jets and then tested his luck on the open market.
“For me, it was virtually a no-brainer,” Wheeler said, according to the Winnipeg Sun. “I sat down with my agent, Matt Keator, in the spring and we had the discussion. He asked ‘what do you want to do? I have no problem being the guy to get you to UFA if that’s where your heart is, if you don’t want to be where you are.’
“I looked him in the eyes and said, ‘this is where I want to be.’”
Winnipeg has certainly been a good fit for the 26-year-old forward. Since the Boston Bruins dealt him, Wheeler has been averaging around 19 minutes per game and has rewarded the Jets for their trust.
Wheeler scored 17 goals and a career-high 64 points in 2011-12. He followed that up with another 19 goals and 22 assists in 48 contests last season.
The Jets are still looking to make the playoffs for the first time since relocating, but they have been assembling the core that they think can accomplish that. Wheeler joins Evander Kane, Bryan Little, and defenseman Tobias Enstrom as the Winnipeg players that are locked up through at least 2017-18.
Kariya and Selanne, one of NHL’s most dominant duos, enter Hall of Fame together
Paul Kariya probably had to wait a couple of years longer than he should have to get his induction into the Hall of Fame, but it was at least fitting that the wait allowed him to enter alongside his long-time running mate, Teemu Selanne.
Both players were among the class of seven inducted into the Hall of Fame on Monday. They spent several years alongside one another in Anaheim (plus one year in Colorado) and were one of the most lethal offensive duos the NHL has ever seen.
The magic they were able to work on the ice together was simply incredible, and at times jaw-dropping.
Selanne said on Monday that he played some of his best years in the NHL alongside Kariya, while added that he would not be getting the call without his years alongside Selanne.
Their production together can not be understated.
Between the 1995-96 and 2000-01 seasons, the years they spent together in Anaheim, 35 percent of the Ducks goals were scored by one of those two players.
What is most incredible about that production is that Kariya only played in 395 out of 492 games due to injury, while Selanne only played in 382 after being acquired in a mid-season trade in 1995 and then traded during the 2001 season.
While Selanne had the ultimate combination of sustained dominance and longevity in his career to make him one of the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorers and point producers, Kariya’s career came to an unfortunate and premature end due to concussion issues. While his final stat line may not stack up among the NHL’s all-time greats, he was one of the league’s most dominant offensive players for more than a decade.
Kariya said on Monday that it took him a year after his retirement to feel normal again, but that he is now no longer having headaches.
He also mentioned that while the NHL seems to be heading in the right direction when it comes to player safety, but that targeted head shots have no place in the game and he would like to see them eliminated.
Yakupov becomes UFA after Blues don’t extend qualifying offer
Nail Yakupov, the first overall draft pick only five years ago, has become an unrestricted free agent.
The 23-year-old winger was not extended a qualifying offer by the St. Louis Blues, thus providing him UFA status. He played 40 games for the Blues in 2016-17, battling a knee injury and scoring just three goals.
Yakupov wants to remain in the NHL, saying in May he has zero plans to return to Russia. It’s possible he could re-sign with the Blues at a lower salary than his qualifying offer would’ve been.
If not, there are 30 other teams he can speak with now.
Yakupov is currently in the conversation with Alexandre Daigle and Patrik Stefan in terms of biggest first overall busts in NHL history.
Forsberg, 24, came to North America in the ’13-14 campaign and has spent most of his time with Columbus’ AHL affiliate. He helped the club capture the Calder Cup in 2016, and that performance was part of the reason Chicago GM Stan Bowman went out and acquired him.
While Forsberg is the favorite for the gig, he’s not a lock. He only has 10 games of NHL experience — a pretty small sample size — and lost out on a similar opportunity with Columbus. Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo were battling to be Sergei Bobrovsky‘s understudy, with Korpisalo eventually winning out.
In other Chicago news, the club gave depth forward Tomas Jurco a one-year extension today. Jurco was acquired from Detroit at last year’s trade deadline and appeared in 13 games for the ‘Hawks, scoring one goal. He didn’t dress for the club’s first-round playoff sweep at the hands of Nashville.
No word yet on financials for either guy.
Wild extend d-man Olofsson — two years, $1.45 million
Speaking of contracts, the Wild opted against making a qualifying offer for d-man Christian Folin. This means he’ll be able to test free agency, though it’s reported Minnesota might try to re-negotiate with him as a UFA.