The Winnipeg Jets have their work cut out for them this summer. They already have some cap issues, they have a team that needs some serious upgrading in terms of depth, and they have several key players that are set to hit the free agent market.
One of those players is Blake Wheeler. Wheeler has been around the league for quite some time, but enjoyed some serious success with the Jets with this season. If it were a full season, some new career highs would almost certainly have been in order.
Playing on the Jets’ top line with Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little, Wheeler was quite a force for the Jets this season. He finished with 41 points in 48 games, including 19 goals which falls just two short of his career high. He was part of a line that generated a strong forecheck and played the physical game, with 90 hits in those 48 games.
Wheeler’s production meant that he was pretty much the only one who could keep up with Andrew Ladd this season. He finished first on the team in goals and was the only player not named Ladd to break the 40-point mark. His 22 assists were third on the team.
Luckily, even with a raise, the Jets could likely manage to keep Wheeler’s salary reasonable. He’s a restricted free agent this summer and is just 26, so he’s very likely considered part of the core of this team. He carried a $2.55 million cap hit in 2013.
Will Wheeler look to double his cap hit this summer? It’s certainly possible. Teams may be willing to pay in the neighborhood of four or five million for a forward that can contribute regularly in the top six. Then again, the cap is shrinking, which could keep his demands low.
It will be interesting to see how the Jets are able to handle negotiations with Blake Wheeler this summer. He’s one of a few key free agents, so the Jets can’t afford to pay too much attention to him. Keep an eye on these negotiations heading into the official offseason later on this summer.