Blake Wheeler is scheduled to have his arbitration hearing at 9:00 AM EST. That is how long the Boston Bruins have to work out a contract with their arbitration eligible power forward.
This kid could be the subject of trade talks, especially if the salary is too high.
The Bruins are a very fiscally prudent team, and as such do not put it above them to either jettison Wheeler, or maybe even let him go for nothing. Last year a similar saga was played out with Kessel, except he was not given money from arbitration—other teams were offering him more.
With Wheeler, once he accepted arbitration no offer sheets were possible, so the Bruins had exclusive negotiating rights to him and will have exclusive negotiating rights unless they let him become a UFA. This would put a very promising young player into free agency early, at which point he would have a lot of suitors.
Now, since the arbitration process gives him money to similar players, we know for sure he will make less than $2.55 million per year. This is because Mason Raymond got that and I believe he performed better. Raymond had 25 goals and 28 assists for a grand total of 53 points whereas Wheeler only had 18 goals and 20 assists for a grand total of 38 points.
However, the quality of Raymond's teammates was far better, and that is something that is not easily factored into the equation if at all. The Bruins had a very difficult time scoring last year after they lost Phil Kessel, and so Wheeler was one of their top goal scorers.
Raymond, on the other hand, was protected by the likes of Burrows and the Sedin twins. Due to this, opposing teams do not try that hard to stop him as the other players are far more dangerous. So why bother?
The main issue is that although this is considered, it is difficult to say how much of the goals belonged to Raymond and how much to his teammates; same with Wheeler.
Another fact to note is that Wheeler has to be paid at least 85 percent of his salary from last year. This being the case, he will probably get a one-year, $2.40125 million contract as that salary is really pushing it for a player of his calibre in a RFA situation.
Unless the salary awarded is absolutely insane, expect the Boston Bruins to keep him. They have a glut of centres but they still need their wingers, and a young power forward like him does not grow on trees. Who knows? He may get even better as he puts on more weight and starts really throwing that weight around.
Of course, if they let him walk, there will be no shortages of teams after him. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, Phoenix Coyotes, and Nashville Predators should all consider him.
The Maple Leafs should because they are looking for a top-six forward and Wheeler would give them that. The Panthers are trying to get younger and would be getting a promising young player. The Coyotes would be able to replace Lee Stempniak. Also, the Predators can replace Jason Arnott. These teams should have the most interest, though never count out Lou Lamoriello and the Devils.
Another issue is how the Blake Wheeler arbitration goes will affect all other teams with players that filed for arbitration. If he gets a lot of money, those teams will try to quickly make deals with their players as they don't want to give up the cap space.
However, if the amount he gets is low every team will have gotten a lot more bargaining power with their respective RFAs. This of course assumes Wheeler goes to arbitration.
So the Blake Wheeler arbitration can cause a huge domino effect, though not as big as the Ilya Kovalchuk signing. The Bruins need to keep Wheeler, expect to see them get rid of Marco Sturm or Patrice Bergeron in order to do so.
After all the Bruins may have a lot of centres but wingers are something they still need to stockpile.
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