NHL free agency 2023: Rangers sign Blake Wheeler to 1-year, 800K contract

The New York Rangers have brought aboard a Winnipeg Jets franchise legend at a discounted price.

The New York Rangers have reportedly added the Winnipeg Jets' all-time points leader on a one-year contract worth $800K.

Blake Wheeler was bought out by the Jets on Friday, and he found a new landing spot in New York the next day. Thanks to the modest cap hit on his contract, New York has more than $10 million in cap space after the deal.

At the age of 36 Wheeler is at the tail end of his career, but he's still a capable offensive producer. In 2022-23, the veteran right winger put up 55 points in 72 games.

The New York Rangers have bolstered their offence by adding Blake Wheeler (Karl B DeBlaker/AP)
The New York Rangers have bolstered their offence by adding Blake Wheeler (Karl B DeBlaker/AP)

Despite those solid numbers, Wheeler's usage told the story of a player who wasn't trusted as much by his coaches as he was in the past. His average ice time (17:02) hit its lowest mark since 2010-11 ashe skated more than two minutes fewer than in 2021-22. The veteran also started more than 60 percent of his even-strength minutes in the offensive zone.

At his advanced age, Wheeler's contributions are relatively one-dimensional, but he remains one of the best passing wingers in the game. He has a chance to slot into the top-six for a squad that just lost Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko to free agency, and could help an offence that has tended to let the Rangers down in the playoffs.

If New York plays Wheeler with capable finishers and keeps him away from tough defensive assignments, they are likely to see an excellent return on their investment in Wheeler.

The veteran may have been able to get more money elsewhere, but signing with New York seems to give him a chance to play a significant role for a contender. Since elite goaltender Igor Shesterkin became the Rangers' starting goaltender the team ranks fifth in the NHL in point percentage (.662) and has won two playoff rounds.