Name: Blake Wheeler
Position: Right wing
Status: RFA — $875,000 salary; $2.825M cap-hit/bonuses
Regular season, EV: 39.37% w/David Krejci and Michael Ryder
Regular season, PK: 69.59% w/Krejci
Regular season, PP: 40.79% w/Krejci and Mark Recchi
Playoffs, EV: 52/03% w/ Vladimir Sobotka and Ryder
Playoffs, EV: 63.16% w/Krejci
Playoffs, PP: 69.75% w/Krejci and Recchi
The Good: Wheeler’s 18 goals was tied for third-most on the offensively challenged Bruins team this season, and his 38 points and 159 shots on goal ranked him fifth on the squad in each category. The skilled and talented Wheeler was a decent cog for the second power play unit (2:04 PP/TOI), on the penalty kill (1:10 SH/TOI) with Krejci, and had 10 of his 38 points coming via the man-advantage and shorthand.
At 6’5″, Wheeler is a very good, agile skater for a player of his size with terrific stick-handling abilities. And there’s no questioning the 23-year-old’s durability, as he was one of two players — Michael Ryder — to play in all 82 games this season (Mark Recchi was a rest/scratch in the meaningless last game No. 82).
The Bad: With 18 goals, it’s hard to say Wheeler’s second season was a Sophomore Slump. But it was. The right winger’s numbers took a nose-dive this season — as did the majority of the B’s forwards — from 45 points in 2008-09 to 38 this season; and a plus-36 rating to a minus-4 likewise. And come playoff time, Wheeler was a non-factor once again. Zero points in eight playoff games last season, No. 26 posted just 1-5-6 and a minus-6 in 13 postseason games this season.
At the beginning of the season, the 6’5″ Wheeler packed on 15 lbs. of muscle during the offseason…apparently that wasn’t enough for the Minnesota native to use the added size to a physical advantage as he registered just 70 hits in the 82 regular season games. And how many times offsides did Wheeler get called for this season? About as many times he clanked the iron?
The 23-year-old has potential to be a perennial 30-goal scorer in the NHL; he has the size and skill to possibly develop into a power forward. But will he? The RFA could walk by Jul. 1 free-agency deadline if the Bruins don’t trade or re-sign the former Golden Gopher. Here’s a list of draft pick, compensation, if Wheeler moves to a new zip code.
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