Blake Wheeler finally got the attention from the NHL that he deserves for being a very good first line player. He also stepped into the departed Andrew Ladd's shoes as a leader even before Ladd was traded. In short, Wheeler had another good season. There are a few questions surrounding him though.
Wheeler was a first line winger all season and even last season. This is the first year that Wheeler has been acknowledged by the NHL as being the first line player that he is. His counting stats are excellent and his fancy stats are just as good. One of the more promising stories that emerged this year was Wheeler's chemistry with Mark Scheifele. While shooting percentage played a role in their success, both players are gifted offensive players who can easily turn the flow of play up ice for offensive zone time.
Aside from his stellar on ice play, Wheeler emerged as a leader for the Jets. While he has been seen as one since the team has come to Winnipeg, he stepped into Andrew Ladd's shoes when the latter was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks around the trade deadline this year.
As you can see, Wheeler is an extremely good possession player and has been in the positive possession column for quite some time. While his possession stats are good, it should be noted that the Jets are a strong possession team that struggles with special teams and penalty differential. Even if Wheeler is a negative contributor on the power-play (something that needs a system analysis to show), his 5 on 5 play is a major positive and should see him last until the end of his current contract (2017-2018) if not longer.
Wheeler has expressed frustration in how this season has gone. However, because the Jets struggled with special teams and penalty differential those problems are easier to remedy, never mind the goaltending issues. Wheeler has three more years at $5.6 million before he becomes a UFA. This will make him 33 years old, which is the wrong side of 30 for most players. That said, if Wheeler maintains his high level of play, is not blocking a younger player who has upside, and does not want too much money relative to the cap there is a chance that Wheeler will stay beyond his current contract.
Depending on how Kevin Cheveldayoff approaches this off-season, he may look into trading Wheeler. It is not a move I would personally support, but if Wheeler is unhappy and wants to go to a team that is not rebuilding than the off-season is the time to make that move. It is not something that has been rumoured, but Wheeler has not been quiet about voicing his displeasure of how poorly the Jets season went this year.
Whatever this off-season holds,Wheeler had a phenomenal season this year and will hopefully continue his partnership with Mark Schiefele or Bryan Little next year.
Corsi stats from Corsica Hockey. Salary information from General Fanager.