Prominent Name Hints at Joining the Leafs Just Before Free Agency Commences

Elliot Ben Jacob
July 1, 2023  (10:51)

Winnipeg Jets Part Ways with Blake Wheeler

The Winnipeg Jets have made headlines with their recent decision to buy out the contract of Blake Wheeler, a longtime member and former captain of the team, as of Friday afternoon.
Wheeler's previous season had been fraught with difficulties, including consistent disagreements with Rick Bowness, the team's first-year coach. The strain in their relationship was evident from the get-go; Bowness cleaned Wheeler off his captaincy during training camp, and the two were never able to mend after that.
Upon the Jets' loss to Vegas in a five-game first-round series, Bowness publicly criticised his team for their lack of resistance, a comment which Wheeler took issue with.
Following this, Wheeler now anticipates a fresh start in free agency commencing July 1st.

Wheeler's Foray into Free Agency

Entering free agency is a first for Wheeler. Although he may not be the same high-profile player he was at his peak, the market is expected to show substantial interest in him. Wheeler showcased a commendable performance last season, achieving 16 goals and 55 points in 72 games for Winnipeg.
Despite his age, Wheeler maintains his status as a top-tier passer, capable of making a significant contribution to a team in a more auxiliary role.

Could the Toronto Maple Leafs be Wheeler's New Home?

Wheeler reportedly has a preference for a contract with an Eastern Conference team, sparking speculation regarding potential fits.
In theory, The Toronto Maple Leafs emerge as a strong contender. The team is slated to soon lose Michael Bunting and Alex Kerfoot, two wingers.
These departures create room for Wheeler to step in, possibly into the top six roles previously occupied by Bunting and Kerfoot in Toronto. Given his talent, Wheeler might prove to be a valuable addition alongside the likes of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
Moreover, Wheeler is not expected to demand a hefty price tag, making him a feasible option for the financially constrained Leafs.
As the free agency period looms, all eyes will be on Wheeler to see if he chooses to relocate to Ontario's capital tomorrow.