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Winnipeg Jets to buy out final year of RW Blake Wheeler’s contract

The veteran forward will be a free agent on July 1.

Blake Wheeler of the Winnipeg Jets looks on during a second period stoppage of play against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game Four of the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Canada Life Centre on April 24, 2023 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

The Winnipeg Jets are buying out the final year of RW Blake Wheeler’s contract. Wheeler was signed through the 2023-24 season at an average annual value of $8 million. The Jets will now pay Wheeler $2.75 million over the course of the next two seasons as part of the buyout agreement.

Winnipeg now has around $14.5 million in cap space following the Pierre-Luc Dubois deal with the Los Angeles Kings. The Jets acquired forward Alex Iafallo and Gabe Vilardi as part of the trade. Vilardi will need a new contract once free agency opens in July 1. Iafallo is signed at $4 million per season over the next two seasons. Morgan Barron, Rasmus Kupari Dylan Samberg, Logan Stanley and Kevin Stenlund are all restricted free agents and need new deals.

The Jets could be active in free agency and there have been multiple reports of G Connor Hellebuyck wanting out of Winnipeg. He has one year left on his contract worth an average annual value of $6.1 million. Backup goalie David Rittich is also an unrestricted free agent. Winnipeg will likely seek a goaltender in any deal involving Hellebuyck. If he isn’t traded, the team is in the market for a veteran backup.

Wheeler will be a sought after free agent. There are generally never good free agent classes in the offseason for the NHL anymore. Wheeler brings plenty of offense and experience to the table. He had 55 points in 72 games this past season. Wheeler projects as a solid middle-6 forward who can play in all situations and brings size and physical play at 6-foot-5.