The Winnipeg Jets finally signed one of their top forwards to a long-term deal on Friday night, per the Canadian Press (h/t TSN). Blake Wheeler’s new contract is worth a total of $33.6 million over the course of six years—an average annual value of $5.6 million per year.
That’s a lot of money, but he has all the tools to live up to the contract.
Wheeler is just beginning to enter his prime years. He led the Jets in scoring in 2011-12 with a career-high 64 points and managed to put up 41 points in the lockout-shortened NHL season last year. Going forward, he has the potential to come close to being a point-per-game player in the NHL.
The 26-year-old is one-third of the Jets' top line, which also consists of Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little. The three have been together since Wheeler was first acquired in 2010. With Little and now Wheeler signing long-term, be prepared to see them stick for a while longer.
Wheeler provides the offense with primary scoring as both a passer and a scorer. His career high in goals came when he was a rookie, when he scored 21. However, he has yet to score 20 goals in a season since. He’s more of a pass-first player, but don’t let the low goal totals fool you—he has the ability to score 30 goals a season.
There’s no doubt that this had to happen before the arbitration hearing that was set for late next week. Just like the Little contract, the Jets will pay for Wheeler’s UFA years, and they’ll do so happily. He is arguably the Jets’ best forward right now, but he's also a key member of the Jets’ core going forward.
Wheeler has been a great addition to the franchise since the then-Atlanta Thrashers acquired him in 2010. He’s turned his game up and has become a leader in the locker room. He is one of the more underrated, non-talked-about players in the entire league. But that won’t be true for much longer.
We’ve yet to see the best of Blake Wheeler.