|07.30.10 at 12:19 pm ET|
Blake Wheeler has had his plate full this offseason. The 23-year-old recently got married and said he was operating on just three hours of sleep in the days leading up to Tuesday’s arbitration hearing with the Bruins. After he was awarded a salary of $2.2 million for the 2010-11 season, the Bruins on Friday agreed to the terms, meaning he will be in the fold for the coming season.
Despite how hectic things may have been in planning a wedding and trying to figure out whether he would be back with the team he played his first two seasons for, a considerable amount of time in Wheeler’s offseason has gone into becoming the player he and many others feel he can be.
“I think for me it’s all about — especially on the forecheck — being more physical, more of a presence. I think I’ve gotten so focused on the offensive production and the numbers side of things, especially last year, where I think there’s definitely more ways to be a contributing factor out on the ice,” Wheeler said Friday. “It’s just all about understanding your areas of strengths and your areas of weakness. I think if I can just assert myself more physically , especially on the forecheck and things of that nature, it’s going to create a lot more opportunities for myself and the guys I’m playing with to get more offensive opportunities. Sometimes it’s about less is more, and when you kind of take a step back from things, it’s a little bit easier to notice where you may be able to improve on things.”
Wheeler has fallen under criticism for not being physical enough for a forward of 6-foot-3 stature. However, as he works at being more aggressive on the forecheck, there are plenty of positives in his game. He scored 20 and 18 goals in his first two seasons, respectively, and his potential seems to be far from maxed out.
Despite having a respectable 83 points for someone entering their third season in the NHL, Wheeler is also hoping to show up more on the scoring sheet next season. As a result, he’s made a big part of his offseason revolve around shooting. In fact, Wheeler is so eager to become a better scorer that he’s made it so he can work from home.
“I think pretty much doing the exact same thing I did last summer. I came into camp probably in the best shape I’ve ever been in physically, mentally, all the above. My training’s pretty much the same as it was last year. The thing I’m really focusing on is shooting pucks. I’ve been working on my shot quite a bit this summer, trying to do whatever it takes to extend my range a little bit,” Wheeler said. “I set up a shooting tarp in my garage. Whenever there’s nothing to do [I] just go out there and pump some pucks at the tarp, so I guess that’s the only real difference, trying to work on the shot and things like that.”
As Wheeler takes shot after shot in his garage in Minnesota, what does he look to accomplish?
“Getting comfortable shooting from farther away from the net. Any time you can put a shot on net from really anywhere — you know, top of the circle and in, it’s going to be a pretty good look — so I think just getting that mentality and getting comfortable letting the puck go like that, is something that could really help me,” Wheeler said. “I’ve obviously probably been more of a passer in my first two years and I think I’d like to close the gap a little bit and start shooting a little bit more, so working on that definitely will help.”
The Bruins and Wheeler’s camp each drove a hard bargain, but should they get their resources in order, $2.2 million for someone intent on addressing their weaknesses could be a pretty good deal.
|07.30.10 at 11:40 am ET|
With Friday’s announcement that the Bruins have agreed to a salary awarded in arbitration for the first time since Peter Chiarelli took over as general manager, it became official that right wing Blake Wheeler would be back in Boston for the 2010-2011 season. The 23-year-old Wheeler told members of the media Friday that it’s exactly where he wants to be.
“It never crossed my mind, being with another team,” Wheeler said. “I think that would be a pretty big surprise for me, but throughout the whole process, even if that was an option, I definitely wanted to be in Boston. Not only because our group of guys is so good and we’ve had such a good locker room over the last couple of years and such great team chemistry. I think we’re right on the cusp of getting to where we want to go. I think every guy in our room can feel that.”
Arbitration is something that both sides generally like to avoid at all costs. A process in which a team basically has to tell a player he isn’t as good he thinks he is can be rather difficult. Wheeler came away from the whole process pleased, however, with how both his camp and the Bruins were able to handle the hearing.
“Before the hearing, I was anxious, obviously. You hear all the horror stories of all the different things that go on in those rooms, but once I was in there and having both sides being argued, it was handled extremely professionally,” Wheeler said. “There was nothing said in that room that I didn’t already know myself. There were no low blows or anything like that taken on either side. ”
Now that Wheeler is back on a one-year $2.2 million deal, he looks forward to getting back into the swing of things and making up for a disappointing Game 7 loss to the Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“Last year was certainly heartbreaking in the sense that we were one win away for four games to going to the net ground and advancing our hopes of obviously winning the Stanley Cup,” Wheeler said. “There’s been a lot of excitement in the moves that have been made.”
|07.30.10 at 10:21 am ET|
After having to wait extra long to find out what his 2010-2011 salary would be Thursday, Bruins right wing Blake Wheeler‘s $2.2 award was agreed to Friday morning by the Bruins.
“It is never a pleasant experience for either side to go to arbitration,” Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “However, as a manager, you know that the player will be under contract for the following year either way. We talked to Blake before and after the hearing and we are satisfied to have a good, young player under contract for another year.”
In Wheeler the Bruins retain a young forward who has averaged just under 20 goals in his first two NHL seasons. The 6-foot-3 winger scored 18 goals and 20 assists for 38 points last season.
The team likely will now its attention to inking rookie center Tyler Seguin, the second overall pick in June’s NHL draft.
|07.29.10 at 8:40 pm ET|
The wait for Bruins right winger Blake Wheeler is finally over. A source has confirmed to WEEI.com that Wheeler received a $2.2 million award in arbitration Thursday night. The Boston Globe was the first to report the story.
The 23-year-old forward and the Bruins were expected to be made aware of the award by award by noon on Thursday, but the arbiter had her hands full with Blackhawks goaltender Antti Niemi’s hearing and delayed the decision.
“The decision came in the range we expected. There were no winners or losers in this case,” Wheeler’s agent, Matt Keator, told WEEI.com. “Blake is excited for camp and ready to go.”
The Bruins now have 48 hours to sign Wheeler to the $2.2 million, which Keator assumes the team will do. Should the Bruins agree to the awarded salary, they will retain Wheeler for the upcoming season, after which he will become a free agent. Keeping him would open a second buyout window, which could help them clear some room against the salary cap. Should the Bruins walk away from the ruling, Wheeler will become a free agent and they will get nothing in return for him.
The Bruins also made minor news on Thursday, inking Yale defenseman Ryan Donald to a two-year contract to play in Providence.
|07.29.10 at 3:43 pm ET|
A source confirmed to WEEI.com that Bruins right winger Blake Wheeler has yet to receive his award in his arbitration case because the arbiter was tied up with Annti Niemi’s hearing with the Blackhawks. The source indicated that the delay could last until Friday but remained hopeful of receiving word. Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe was the first to report the delay.
Word on Wheeler’s award was supposed to come down by noon on Thursday, as it is required to be given within 48 hours of the initial hearing. The Bruins and Wheeler met Tuesday morning from 9 a.m. to noon.
|07.28.10 at 6:48 pm ET|
It appears there will be no news regarding Blake Wheeler‘s arbitration case with the Bruins on Wednesday. Agent Matt Keator indicated to multiple outlets, including WEEI.com, that he is not expecting the arbiter to reveal the right wing’s awarded 2010-2011 salary until Thursday. A decision must come within 48 hours of the hearing, and given that the two sides met Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon, word should emerge Thursday morning.
Upon the arbiter delivering the award, the Bruins can either pay and thus retain Wheeler, keep him buy out a veteran, or walk away and let the 6-foot-3 forward become a free agent.
Wheeler is just the second player with whom general manager Peter Chiarelli has gone to arbitration. He walked away from defenseman David Tanabe in 2006. Tanabe later had his career ended by a concussion.
Chiarelli and Wheeler’s camp tried to avoid a hearing and held a meeting late Monday night that also included assistant general manager Don Sweeney. All attempts at coming to a deal were obviously unsuccessful, but it seems highly unlikely, even given the team’s tight cap situation (just over $12,000 in space), that they would walk away from the 23-year-old.
Wheeler, who spent last week on his honeymoon, scored 18 goals and had 20 assists for 38 points in ’09-’10, his second NHL season. He earned $2.8 million. Though the team will get $3.5 million of temporary cap relief from Marco Sturm‘s knee injury to open the season, the Bruins will almost certainly need to make a more permanent move to accomodate to Wheeler’s forthcoming salary, expected to be in the low-to-mid $2 million range, and sign rookie center Tyler Seguin.
|07.28.10 at 4:17 pm ET|
The Bruins announced Wednesday that they have renewed their affiliation with the Reading Royals of the East Coast Hockey League. The Maple Leafs have done the same, making the upcoming season the second in a row that the two have shared the affiliation. It is the third straight year the Leafs have used Reading for grooming prospects.
“We’re extremely pleased to renew our affiliation relationships with Toronto and Boston,” Royals general manager Gordon Kaye said. “Over the past two seasons, we have been very pleased as our interaction with the Maple Leafs and Marlies has expanded, and adding Boston as an affiliate last year provided our team with additional source of talent, while providing an excellent opportunity for young prospects to improve and advance their careers in Reading.”
Goaltender Matt Dalton and forward Yannick Riendeau are among the Bruins prospects to have seen time at Reading.
“There is no question but that a considerable factor in our team’s success last season was the active participation of the player development departments in Toronto and Boston,” Reading head coach Larry Courville said. “We look forward to continuing these efforts with our affiliates to accomplish our goals of developing young talent and winning games in Reading.”
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