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Winnipeg Jets Buying Out Final Year of Blake Wheeler’s Contract

June 30, 2023 11:53 AM | The Canadian Press

By The Canadian Press

WINNIPEG — Blake Wheeler’s tenure with the Winnipeg Jets has come to an end.

The Jets placed Wheeler on unconditional waivers on Friday with purpose of buying out the final year of the former captain’s contract.

Wheeler’s average annual value for the 2023-24 season was US$8.25 million.

“We would like to thank Blake for his dedication and service to the Jets, the city of Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba,” said Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. “We are incredibly grateful for the contributions that he has made during his 12 seasons with the franchise.”

The 36-year-old forward joined the franchise — via a trade with Boston — in 2011 when the team was still in Atlanta. He leaves as the franchise leader in regular-season games played (897), points (812), assists (550) and shots (2,462).

His 262 goals are the third-most in franchise history.

“I want to thank everyone in Winnipeg for all the love and support over these past 12 years,” Wheeler said in a statement. “It has been my absolute honour and privilege to be a Winnipeg Jet and to represent this city and organization. My family and I can’t thank everyone in the city and province enough for everything you’ve done for us.”

Wheeler served as Winnipeg’s captain for seven years before having the titled stripped from him at the start of training camp by new head coach Rick Bowness, who installed a three-alternate leadership group of Adam Lowry, Josh Morrissey and Mark Scheifele.

The player and coach clashed publicly following Winnipeg’s first-round playoff loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Wheeler told reporters he didn’t like the harsh assessment Bowness gave to the media after the Jets were eliminated with a 4-1 loss in Game 5 against the Knights.

“I’m so disappointed and disgusted right now, that’s my thoughts,” Bowness told reporters. “No pushback. But it’s the same (stuff) we saw in February. It was. As soon as we were challenging for first place and teams were coming after us, we had no pushback. This series we had no pushback. Their better players were so much better than ours, it’s not even close.”

Wheeler believed the coach’s criticism should have been kept inside the locker room.

“I think (Bowness) could have been honest with us,” Wheeler said. “We could have had those discussions behind closed doors. So I didn’t agree with how he handled himself after that game.”

The move comes as Winnipeg looks to revamp its team, with Cheveldayoff saying the team is open to trading players like Scheifele and Connor Hellebuyck if the right deal comes along.

CP - The Canadian Press