Former Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler is set to part ways with his team this summer, and on TSN’s Insider Trading program Pierre LeBrun put that quite succinctly, stating Wheeler “will not be playing for the Jets next season.” But where the two-time All-Star will end up playing next season remains a mystery, as is what exact method will be used to finalize his exit from the Jets. LeBrun reports that Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and Wheeler’s representation are working collaboratively to find a solution for Wheeler, and potential outcomes include not only a trade or a traditional buyout, but also a combination of both wherein Wheeler is traded to another club and then bought out by his new team.
The Jets have gone down that route with players in the past, such as in 2018 when they sent Joel Armia and draft picks to the Montreal Canadiens so Montreal would buy out the contract of netminder Steve Mason. A Wheeler buyout would cost a team $2.75MM against the cap for the next two seasons, and with the buyout deadline looming next Friday the Jets will need to either come to terms on a Wheeler trade with another club or figure out whether they or another club will be on the hook for Wheeler’s buyout.
Some other notes from across the NHL:
- It has long been expected that Carolina Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal’s pending unrestricted free agency was more of a formality than anything else, and that the 34-year-old center would end up re-signing with the franchise he’s been with since the 2012 offseason. But according to TSN’s Darren Dreger on Insider Trading, that may no longer be the case. Dreger reports that Staal’s camp “has supplied” the Hurricanes “with a number of options” on a new deal but that their negotiations are “at an impasse,” and that owner Tom Dundon will need “to move from his position” in order to re-sign his captain. Dreger adds that if that doesn’t happen, we “absolutely could see” Staal “as a free agent on July 1st.” That would be a decently shocking outcome for Staal and the Hurricanes, though it now seems like a once-remote possibility Hurricanes fans may need to begin preparing for.
- A player that is looking like he’ll hit the free agent market at the start of the new league year is Toronto Maple Leafs forward Michael Bunting. TSN’s Chris Johnston reported on Insider Trading that while Bunting “would love to remain” in Toronto there “have been no substantive negotiations” on a contract extension. Johnston adds that Bunting is “likely headed to the marketplace” where he could receive contract offers that exceed what the Maple Leafs are in a position to offer. Bunting, who will turn 28 in September, scored 23 goals and 49 points last season and established himself as a legitimate NHL scoring option in his time with Toronto.
- While the Vancouver Canucks made the decision not to pay Oliver Ekman-Larsson to play for them moving forward, it seems other teams on the open market will be more than happy to add the 902-game veteran to their lineup. TSN’s Darren Dreger reports on Insider Trading that Ekman-Larsson’s next contract “could be one year or as many as four years” in term, and won’t come at a bargain-bin rate simply because Ekman-Larsson is already owed money from Vancouver. Dreger adds that Ekman-Larsson would like to sign with a contending team, and he could be eyeing a trip to the free agent market similar to Ryan Suter’s in 2021, when Suter landed a four-year $3.65MM AAV deal from the Dallas Stars.