NHL Rumor Mill – June 23, 2022
The Jets are reportedly exploring trade options for Blake Wheeler while Pierre-Luc Dubois indicates his time in Winnipeg could be short. Check out the details plus the latest on Tyson Barrie in today’s NHL rumor mill.
JETS SHOPPING WHEELER?
DAILY FACEOFF: Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler checks in at No. 3 on Frank Seravalli’s updated list of this offseason’s trade targets. He indicates sources say the Jets are exploring the trade market and engaging with teams on the possibility of moving the 35-year-old right winger.
Wheeler has a full no-movement clause until July 1, after which it reverts to a five-team trade list. He has two more seasons remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $8.25 million.
Seravalli suggested Wheeler’s contract might not be difficult to move. He suggests there could be a market among playoff contenders seeking a “point-per-game, play-driving winger with size and heart.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wheeler was all those things Seravalli described during his playing prime. However, age could be catching up with him. He got off to a slow start last season and was hampered by a bout with COVID-19 and an injury, though his performance improved over the second half as he finished with 60 points in 65 games. His leadership also came under criticism by Winnipeg pundits and fans amid rumors of divisions in the Jets’ dressing room.
Wheeler’s contract is an issue with the salary cap rising by just $1 million for 2022-23. It’s not impossible to move as there will probably be general managers willing to gamble on him remaining a point-per-game winger on a deeper roster. However, they might not be keen to carry an $8.25 million cap hit for the next two seasons. The Jets could end up taking back a comparable contract, retain part of his annual cap hit, or attempt a three-team deal to spread the dollars around.
DUBOIS TO TEST UFA MARKET IN 2024
THE SCORE: cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting Pierre-Luc Dubois informed Jets management of his intention to test the open market when he’s eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in 2024.
Dubois is a restricted free agent this summer with arbitration rights. Friedman said the Jets have control of the process until then and intend to keep the 23-year-old center “and have him as a Jet for a long time.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets acquired Dubois last season from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic. They probably envisioned signing him to a long-term contract with perhaps an eye on him taking over from Mark Scheifele as their first-line center. Scheifele, by the way, is also eligible for UFA status in 2024.
This is not an ideal situation for the Jets. Dubois intends to just sign a two-year extension and then leave in 2024. Based on Friedman’s report, management seems to believe they can convince him otherwise. Unless they’re willing to open the vault and overpay for his services this summer, they risk watching him walk away in two years’ time.
That might explain Seravalli’s report claiming the Jets are gauging Wheeler’s value in the trade market. They might be trying to shed his salary to make room for a hefty raise for Dubois.
LATEST ON BARRIE
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples weighed in on Tyson Barrie ending up on Daily Faceoff’s list of this summer’s trade targets. He not only agrees with it but predicts the 30-year-old Oilers defenseman will be shipped out this summer.
Staples believes Barrie’s puck-moving skills will draw interest in the trade market. With Evan Bouchard and Cody Ceci as right-shot defensemen superior to Barrie at even strength, the latter’s $4.5 million cap hit is a luxury the Oilers can’t afford. He suggests shipping him out to clear cap space to add a goaltender or to re-sign Evander Kane.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barrie carries a reasonable short-term contract and lacks no-trade protection. I can see him getting moved in a cost-cutting deal this summer.