On Friday, Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced that the Bruins had accepted a salary arbiter’s award and signed forward Blake Wheeler to a one-year contract.
“We talked to Blake before and after the hearing," said Chiarelli in a statement. "We are satisfied to have a good, young player under contract for another year.”
The numbers back that up.
The 23-year-old Wheeler is a veteran of 163 NHL regular season games and has compiled 39 goals, 44 assists for 83 points and 99 penalty minutes in those contests.
Last season, Wheeler was one of two Bruins to play in all 82 games for Boston. In those games, Wheeler notched 18-20-38 totals, good for fifth on the team in points.
Wheeler had seven multiple-point games and tied his career-high for points in a game with a 2-1-3 effort coming on January 5 at Ottawa. In the 2010 postseason he played in 13 games with a 1-5-6 line.
"I'm really excited to be back in Boston for another season," said Wheeler via teleconference. "It was a long process but we’re both very excited.
"I’d like to thank the Jacobs family and also Peter Chiarelli and the entire Bruins organization.
"At the end of the day I think it was very fair on both ends and now it is just all about business and getting back to the right spot for the Bruins organization."
Wheeler, who played in his 100th NHL and Bruins game on November 1, 2009 in Pittsburgh, said that he hopes to improve his game, as well.
1st NHL hat trick was in Nov. 6th, 2008
2 NHL seasons
3 seasons at the University of Minnesota
5th overall pick by Phoenix in the 2004 NHL Draft
21 careerNHL playoff games
23 years old
26 jersey number
+36 good for second in the NHL in 2009-09
42 first number with Boston
208 lbs." Wheeler by the Numbers
"I think, for me, it’s all about – especially on the forecheck – just being more physical and more of a presence," said Wheeler, who finished last season with 53 penalty minutes. "I've gotten so focused on the offensive production and the numbers side of things, especially last year [and] I think there are definitely more ways to be a contributing factor out on the ice.
"It’s just all about understanding your areas of strength and areas of weakness. I think if can assert myself more physically, especially, like I said, on the forecheck and things of that nature, then it’s going to create a lot more opportunities for myself, and the guys I'm playing with,
"Sometimes it’s about less is more. When you kind of take a step back from things it’s a little bit easier to notice where you maybe need to improve on things," he said.
For the second straigh summer, Wheeler, a 6-foot-5, 208-pound native of Robbinsdale, Minnesota. has hit the gym looking to improve his strength and conditioning.
"Well I think pretty much I’m doing the same thing as last summer. I came into camp probably in the best shape I’ve ever been in, physically, mentally, all of the above," said Wheeler. "My training is pretty much the same as it was last year."
But he's returned to a tried and true method of off-season hockey conditioning -- taking as many shots as possible.
"The thing I’m really focusing on is shooting pucks," said Wheeler. "I’ve been working on my shot quite a bit this summer to do whatever it takes to extend my range a little bit and I set up a shooting tarp in my garage and when there is nothing to do I just go out there and pump some pucks at the tarp.
"I guess that’s the only real difference."
|Boston Bruins' Blake Wheeler, right, checks Philadelphia Flyers' Ryan Parent into the boards in the first period of Game 3 of a second-round NHL playoff hockey series, Wednesday, May 5, 2010, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) |
But a little more shooting accuracy could make a world of difference to the B's, who came out of the gate slowly last season. And, of course, nobody needs to remind Wheeler how it ended.
"I don’t think you can maybe find too many guys that would say they were necessarily content or happy with the way last season went," said Wheeler. "The regular season itself was a frustration for our entire team.
"We ended on a positive note and went into the playoffs with a lot of confidence and playing well. We played great until those last four games.
"It really is too bad, because we were finding our rhythm and the way we ended things [was] the whole season with the ups and downs in it."
And, like many of the B's who have checked in at BostonBruins.com this summer, Wheeler (who was originally selected by the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round, 5th overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and originally signed with the Bruins as a free agent on July 1, 2008) is using that hearbreak as motivation and expects the rest of his teammates to do the same.
Wheeler also said that the start in Europe might help the B's focus more on the regular season when they return from Prague.
"Yeah, I think certainly the Winter Classic and even the Olympic break were, I don’t want to say distraction; they were great events obviously for the guys that were involved and we were certainly very fortunate to have such a great event at Fenway park, but you know it’s going to be nice to have that out of the way. To be able to go to Prague and get the season underway," he said. "The beginning of this season is going to be really fun and exciting for everyone especially probably Mr. [David] Krejci.
"I think every guy is excited to get over there and experience this as well and once that’s over we’ll be able to focus on the next 80 games of the season and getting into a good rhythm."