WINNIPEG — Blake Wheeler’s new six-year, $33.6-million contract with the Winnipeg Jets is a pretty strong vote by the NHL team for the future of their first-line right-winger.
And the feeling is mutual, Wheeler said this morning.
"For me it was virtually a no-brainer," the 26-year-old native of Robbinsdale, Minn., told reporters during a conference call today, asked if he was at all tempted to try unrestricted free agency next summer. "I sat down with my agent, Matt Keator, this spring. He said, ‘I have no problem being the guy to get you to UFA if that’s where your heart is, if that’s where you are, yada yada yada.’
"I sat there, looked him in the eye and said ‘This is where I want to be. I believe in what people like Mark Chipman, Chevy (GM Kevin Cheveldayoff) and what everyone stands for, and especially my teammates.
"I have believed since I got here, and I’ve told you guys probably a million times, that I believe we have what it takes to take it to the next level. This is just a part of that process.
"I really truly believe that great things are in store for this group."
Wheeler is coming off a season in which he led the Jets with 19 goals and his 41 points were second only to team-leader, captain and linemate Andrew Ladd.
Wheeler’s contract comes out to an average annual value of $5.6 million.
Restricted free agent defenceman Zach Bogosian is scheduled for an arbitration hearing Aug. 2.