Former Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler is one of the more intriguing late additions to the unrestricted free agent market after getting bought out today. While most analytics suggest the 36-year-old is over the hill, he did still notch 55 points in 72 games last season and should still be capable in a third-line role at worst, and could likely earn upwards of $3MM on a one-year deal.
Today, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported the Florida Panthers have an interest in adding the veteran winger when he hits the open market tomorrow, although he won’t be their first priority. The team remains focused on shoring up their defense, with both Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour set to miss the start of the season. Still, the team is projected to have $10.2MM in cap space (CapFriendly) without taking any LTIR relief into account, and they should easily be able to accommodate a forward of Wheeler’s likely price. Dreger also listed a former team of Wheeler’s, the Boston Bruins, as a potential fit, although their cap situation currently makes any external additions a tough ask.
Elsewhere in the East:
- Toronto Maple Leafs fans may not be the biggest Justin Holl supporters, but the blueliner could still end up returning to the team after the market opens tomorrow, says ESPN’s Ryan S. Clark. Clark notes there’s significant market interest in Holl, as multiple teams have inquired ahead of tomorrow, while The Athletic’s Jonas Siegel called it less than a 50% chance Holl would end up back in Toronto. Overall, the 31-year-old is a fine fit in most teams’ top fours but is prone to some extremely visible mistakes.
- While they didn’t qualify him today, it may not be the end of Tyson Jost’s time in Buffalo. The Buffalo News’ Lance Lysowski reports the Sabres are continuing to negotiate with his camp in hopes of working out a deal for the forward, who the team claimed off waivers from the Minnesota Wild earlier in the season. His presence at the beginning of the 2023-24 season was made more valuable by the news of Jack Quinn’s Achilles injury, which will keep him out for at least the first few weeks of the campaign. He could slip to a press box role, however, upon Quinn’s return – especially if the team adds another forward on the free agent market (which they have ample cap space to do).
- The New Jersey Devils are also still negotiating with former RFA forwards Jesper Boqvist, Michael McLeod, and Nathan Bastian, none of whom were given qualifying offers today, per ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski. New Jersey opted not to qualify any of these players, who likely won’t play any higher than a fourth-line role, out of fear that a potential arbitration award would be too rich for their blood.