Blake Wheeler is no longer a member of the Winnipeg Jets, with the team announcing Friday they placed their former captain on unconditional waivers for the purpose of buying out the final year of his contract.
Wheeler's future with the Jets had been in question for some time. Prior to the season, he was stripped of his captaincy. And while the Jets reached the playoffs, they were knocked out in the first round by the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Vegas Golden Knights in five games.
The fact the Jets were eliminated in the first and/or qualifying round for the third time in five seasons created more questions about what appeared to be a stagnant core. Those concerns intensified even more considering Wheeler along with Connor Hellebuyck, Nino Niederreiter and Mark Scheifele each had one year left on their contract.
Buying out Wheeler, who was set to earn $8.25 million in his final season, comes with a cost of $2.75 million for the next two seasons. CapFriendly projects the Jets have a little less than $15 million in available cap space with free agency starting Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.
Wheeler, who scored 16 goals and had 55 points this season, spent two-plus seasons with the Boston Bruins before he was traded to what was then the Atlanta Thrashers. Wheeler was with the team when they relocated to Winnipeg and would ultimately spend 13 years between the two franchises. His time with the Jets saw Wheeler finish with 262 goals and 812 points in 897 games.
Moving on from Wheeler is the latest chapter in what has been a busy offseason for the Jets. The first entry came Tuesday when they completed a sign-and-trade deal with the Los Angeles Kings, which saw Pierre-Luc Dubois head to Southern California in exchange for Alex Iafallo, Rasmus Kupari, Gabriel Vilardi and a 2024 second-round pick. Dubois signed an eight-year deal with the Kings worth $8.5 million annually.