Analyzing Potential Blake Wheeler Commerce Companions for Winnipeg Jets amid NHL Rumors | Bleacher Report
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Blake Wheeler has been a member of the Winnipeg Jets franchise for over a decade, but his time with the franchise appears to be coming to a close as it heads into what could be a transformational offseason.
The Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reported that “the Jets have begun to explore the market” on an offseason trade for the 35-year-old forward.
Wheeler likely won’t be dealt before July 1 because of the clauses in his contract. Seravalli noted that he has a complete control over a new destination until July 1. After that time, he would have a list of five teams he is willing to accept a deal with.
A handful of potential Stanley Cup contenders could be in the market for Wheeler to add an extra veteran piece to their forward line in advance of the 2022-23 season.
The obvious connection to make is with the Florida Panthers, where Paul Maurice was just named head coach. He was in charge of the Winnipeg Jets from 2014-2021.
The Dallas Stars and a few other teams have a decent amount of salary-cap space for the upcoming season, but the trade has to make sense for the player and team with Wheeler being at the end of his career.
Florida will be mentioned in the Wheeler trade conversations because of the connection to the franchise’s new head coach.
The Plymouth, Minnesota native has familiarity with Paul Maurice, who will be tasked with taking the Presidents’ Trophy winner further in the postseason. Florida was swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round this year.
Florida followed a similar trade strategy during the regular season, as it brought in Claude Giroux from the Philadelphia Flyers.
The 34-year-old is one of a few players the Panthers have to figure out in terms of their contract status.
As of now, the Panthers have one of the smallest salary-cap openings in the NHL. According to Spotrac, Florida has $3.7 million in cap space available for the offseason.
Wheeler is scheduled to make $6.5 million in the 2022-23 season, per Spotrac, and his deal would require some salary-cap gymnastics out of the Panthers.
Florida needs to make some improvements to be more competitive in the postseason next year, but Wheeler may not be the right fit because of the financial side of things.
The Dallas Stars are further up on the salary-cap availability chart compared to the Panthers.
Dallas has $19.8 million in space, per Spotrac, and that could be enough to bring in a few pieces during the offseason.
The Stars’ problem when it comes to Wheeler is they already have plenty of key contributors over the age of 30 on their roster.
Dallas has over $3 million invested in five players above the age of 31 for next season, including Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.
The Stars are only a few years removed from a Stanley Cup Final appearance and will need an extra piece or two to contend with the Colorado Avalanche and others in the Western Conference next season.
Wheeler may not make sense for the Stars if younger options are available in free agency or on the trade market.
Seravalli listed Alex DeBrincat and Kevin Fiala as the top two trade targets this offseason. DeBrincat is 24 and Fiala is 25. Either player may be better suited for the Stars with their roster complexion.
New York Rangers
The New York Rangers fit the profile of a young team in search of more experience.
They have four players under contract for next season who are age 30 or older. Two of them are Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider.
The recent postseason run from the Rangers proved they are a few pieces and wins away from contending for a Stanley Cup.
New York could be in the perfect position to pounce for veteran players this offseason because of the changing dynamic in the Eastern Conference.
Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin will be one year older and that may leave the Metropolitan Division race more open than it was last season.
The Rangers could add Wheeler to their young core in an offseason trade and it would help them pursue the divisional title, which would come with more home-ice advantage in the postseason.
Wheeler would have to approve a trade to New York, but if he wants to chase a Stanley Cup, that could be a great fit.