Blake Wheeler will provide Rangers with more punch
One thing the New York Rangers appeared to lack in their first round exit to the New Jersey Devils was a player that could provide grit and scoring combined.
Aside from Chris Kreider, the Rangers really didn’t have another forward that could bring both to the table consistently. Barclay Goodrow and Jimmy Vesey tried, but neither have ever cracked the 40 point mark in a season.
In Blake Wheeler, the Blueshirts now have a middle six winger that has a reputation for scoring with seven 20+ goal seasons and two 91 point campaigns to his name. At 6-5′ and 225 lbs, he’s also now the biggest forward on the Rangers roster which he’ll use to get into the dirty areas to give opposing defenses headaches.
“My focus is having a great summer, coming in in as great of shape as I can be and put my best foot forward,” Wheeler said after signing. “You look at the roster and there are world class players up and down this lineup – I see myself being able to complement some of the elite guys this roster has.”
Blake Wheeler gives Rangers more punch
Wheeler, 36, registered 16 goals and 39 assists for 55 points in 72 games including 7 power play goals. For his career, he’s amassed 312 goals and 610 assists for 922 points in 1,118 matches. In the playoffs, the Minnesota native has added 45 points in 65 games.
After spending 12 years in Winnipeg, where he had his captaincy taken away in favor of leadership by committee approach in 2022, the Jets bought him out. That opened the door for a one-year “show me” deal with the cap-strapped Rangers at $800,000 and performance bonuses that could total to $1.1 million on July 1.
Now that he’s in the fold, it’s expected that he will play right wing on either the second or third line.
“He certainly has experience, his leadership, his size – he does a lot of everything out there for a big veteran winger,” GM Chris Drury said of Wheeler. “We think he can move up and down our lineup.”
Here’s an early projection of the forward lines based on current signings:
- Kreider – Zibanejad – Kakko
- Panarin – Trocheck – Wheeler
- Lafreniere – Chytil – Goodrow
- Vesey – Bonino – Pitlick
Head coach Peter Laviolette may also try and challenge Alexis Lafreniere to move to the right wing in order to get him more top-six minutes. That would drop Wheeler down and likely move Goodrow to Chytil’s left side on the third line.
Regardless, the Rangers made a shrewd move in adding Wheeler. It certainly helps them add a multi-dimensional player that can bring more to a lineup loaded with offensive stars.