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Wasted - Blake Wheeler Says No to Gretzky

In a somewhat unusual move, 2004 draft pick Blake Wheeler, (5th overall), refused to sign an entry level contract with the Phoenix Coyotes and will be an unrestricted free agent come July 1st. The club had 4 years to sign the right-winger, but will lose rights to the player if the two parties can't come to terms by June 30th.

According to a press release by the club, that's exactly what will happen.

We offered Blake a contract which was both commensurate with his draft position and far exceeded any guaranteed contract he can receive, under the current CBA, with any other team. He has decided, however, that becoming a free agent is in his best interest."

This decision is really just a flat out refusal by Wheeler to play in Phoenix. Entry level guaranteed contracts can't be much different from club to club, (other than bonus clauses), so apparently the thrill of playing for Wayne Gretzky didn't register with the Minnesota native.

The selection of Wheeler, (which was at the draft held here in Raleigh), was a mystery back when Phoenix first made the pick. I remember that I had a listing of top prospects in my hand, and I couldn't find Blake Wheeler's name on it after the pick was announced. Many of the league experts questioned the choice as well.

Wheeler was in high school at the time and then went on to play for the University of Minnesota.

Phoenix will be compensated with a 2nd round pick in this year's draft. That seems like little consolation for a team who could have chosen a player like Alexander Radulov, Mike Green, Andrej Meszaros, Jeff Schultz, Travis Zajac, or Wojtek Wolski, all decent players who were picked after the 5th selection. In essence, their pick was wasted.

I find this topic interesting because this is one scenario which could have played out with the Hurricanes regarding Jack Johnson.

If Johnson decided to stay a total of four years at Michigan, he could have eventually refused to sign with Carolina. That would have left the Canes with nothing but a 2nd round pick in compensation, and lot of wasted time and frustration for Jim Rutherford.

I can't help but think that one of the reasons the Hurricanes dealt Johnson to Los Angeles in the first place was because it was too difficult to negotiate with him and his unpredictable dad. But perhaps Carolina's GM had this possibility in mind as well.

There was a conversation about the defenseman on XM radio recently, talking about how Johnson only has one year remaining on his entry level contract. I double checked his status on NHL Numbers, and sure enough, Johnson will be an RFA after next season.

Remember, Jack started with Los Angeles back at the end of the 2006-07 season, and he only played 5 games for the team. That means the Kings wasted a whole year of inexpensive entry level status, for just 5 meaningless games in return. Ouch.

Although, with stats like 3 goals, 8 assists, and a -19 in 74 games played last year, he won't be asking for too much money as an RFA, will he?

Count on it. The amount will certainly be substantially more than his entry level amount.

It will be very interesting to watch those negotiations next year.

It's pretty quiet right now concerning the Hurricanes, so no news is turning into news. Poor Luke DeCock has resorted to updating LSB with articles like, "Glen Wesley is still undecided" which isn't much different than the article posted on May 16th when Hedican and Wesley were both undecided.

The media guys in Albany are still working hard as they posted yet another Q&A article with a River Rat. The most recent target is Casey Borer. The defenseman talks about his injury as well as his brief stint playing for Carolina.

One of our readers, "Sunny", left a comment concerning Carolina's upcoming appearances on the NHL Network. The station is replaying many of the 2006 playoff games and next week will be replaying all 7 games from the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals.

Check out this link for the exact times and scheduling.

Finally, Vancouver defenseman Luc Bourdon died yesterday in a tragic motorcycle accident. For more details, you can check out this article.

Def Leppard