The Winnipeg Jets have come to terms with restricted free agent Blake Wheeler on a new six-year, $33.6 million contract late Friday night.
“For me it was virtually a no-brainer,” said Wheeler via conference call Saturday morning. “This is where I want to be. I believe in people like Mark Chipman and Chevy (Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff) and what everyone stands for and especially my teammates. I believe this team has what it takes and that there are good things in store for this group.”
Wheeler, 26, played in 48 games with the Winnipeg Jets last season. In that time, the right-winger recorded 41 points (19G, 22A) and 28 penalty minutes. He led the Jets in goals and ranked second on the club’s leaderboard in overall points.
The Jets and Wheeler avoided the dark road that is arbitration, something Wheeler is thankful for after being through it once before while a member of the Boston Bruins.
“Arbitration is not the best case scenario so I am thrilled to have avoided that process,” said Wheeler.
The Robbinsdale, MN native has played in 372 career NHL games between Boston, Atlanta and Winnipeg for 232 career points (93G, 139A) and 228 penalty minutes. He has also appeared in 21 post-season games, all with the Bruins for six points (1G, 5A) and six penalty minutes.
Pressure is something that comes with a new contract, but something that Wheeler thinks he has always been under in Winnipeg and welcomes it.
“I think I am the opposite, I think I put more pressure on myself,” said Wheeler. “I always thought I had more to give, I am the kind of person who takes that and runs with it.
“It gives me life and energy to go out there and hopefully reach that height, there is more in store for sure.”
Wheeler told the media that contract talks were always “cordial.”
“Both sides wanted to get a deal done,” said Wheeler. “Because of that I think the talks were always cordial. What it came down to was finding the numbers that worked well for both sides, you have to preach back and forth to each other and the things that you believe, for me as a player, where we had me being as a player, and for them as an organization where they had me as a player – I think those things line up at the end of the day.
“I think at the end of the day the feeling I got was that Chipman and Cheveldayoff really wanted me to be a Jet long-term, and like I said before, I wanted to be a Jet long-term.”
(With files from the Winnipeg Jets press release.)