The New York Rangers have nabbed former Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler on the free agent market, per the team. Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reports the 35+ contract has an $800K cap hit and carries $300K in potential bonuses. The team’s also made the long-reported Jonathan Quick signing official at an $825K cap hit plus bonuses, says The New York Post’s Mollie Walker.
While he’s no longer the back-to-back 90-point man he was earlier in his time with the Winnipeg Jets, Wheeler remains a lethal weapon on the power play and a solid all-around offensive threat. He scored 55 points in 72 games last season and scored 60 points in 65 games the year before.
The Rangers’ biggest need heading into next season was talent along the right side of their forward corps, and Wheeler is just about the best possible option they could afford. He’ll now have a chance to play with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, or Vincent Trocheck and Artemi Panarin.
Assuming he stays healthy, he’s set himself up to have a monster season, especially if he can land a place on New York’s top power-play unit.
While he might not be able to set himself up for a long-term, pricey contract next summer as he’ll be set to turn 38 in August of next year, he’s put himself in a prime position on a Stanley Cup contender and under some of the brightest lights in the hockey world.
For Quick, this move allows him to back up one of the NHL’s best goalies, work with one of the NHL’s most highly-regarded goalie coaches in Benoit Allaire, as well as move closer to where he grew up. A legendary netminder whose earlier days with the Los Angeles Kings came to define that era of hockey, Quick’s form has declined sharply in recent seasons.
He posted a .876 save percentage in 31 games with the Kings last season and a .901 in 10 games with the Vegas Golden Knights. That might not be good enough to cut it in New York, but the hope is that with such a renowned coach in his corner, his numbers could rebound. In any case, he’ll now land with a potential Stanley Cup contender and be able to provide guidance to one of the league’s top goalies.
Now for Belzile, he’s reportedly getting a two-year contract which is a nice reward for a player who has worked his way up from the ECHL to the NHL. He became a top scorer for the Laval Rocket with the Montreal Canadiens and when the team faced significant injury issues he became a regular face in head coach Martin St. Louis’ lineup.
In 31 games at the NHL level Belzile scored a solid 14 points, showcasing the possibility for him to become a valuable bottom-sixer on a more regular basis. With the Rangers looking to fill depth lineup spots on the cheap and potentially also improve their AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, Belzile could quickly prove to be a savvy signing by Rangers GM Chris Drury.
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