Blake Wheeler stripped of Jets’ captaincy heading into 2022-23 season

blake wheeler
Apr 29, 2022; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Winnipeg Jets right wing Blake Wheeler (26) skates past fans before a game against the Calgary Flames at Canada Life Centre. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Blake Wheeler will no longer be the captain of the Winnipeg Jets, an honor he’s held since the 2016-17 season.

The Jets are serious about changing some things heading into the 2022-23 season after seeing Paul Maurice step down as head coach and missing the playoffs. In his place, Rick Bowness, who left the Dallas Stars bench at season’s end, wants to go with only alternate captains.

“It is the determination of the coaching staff that we will enter the 2022-23 season without a specific captain, but rather a group of assistants still to be determined,” Bowness said in a statement Friday. “It is our goal to expand the leadership base within our hockey team. We have high expectations for our core players and we want to provide them with the opportunity to step into those greater leadership roles as a group.”

Both Rick Bowness and Blake Wheeler are scheduled to speak to the media today.

Blake Wheeler stripped of captaincy

Blake Wheeler
Feb 12, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Winnipeg Jets right wing Blake Wheeler (26) celebrates with teammates after defeating the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

This has been a strange offseason for the Jets filled with rumors.

Heading into the summer, Mark Scheifele was a name that many thought was going to be on the move. Things took another twist when rumblings surfaced that Pierre-Luc Dubois was going to test free agency in 2024 (it’s still looking like he will).

Since then, Dubois signed a one-year extension and Scheifele is looking forward to the upcoming season.

When it comes to Wheeler, he’s been a possible trade candidate dating back to last season. However, his age coupled with contract term are a bit of an issue.

Wheeler, 36, posted 16 goals and 65 points in 60 contests during the 2021-22 campaign. He has two years remaining with a whopping $8.25M AAV which very few playoff contenders can afford to absorb. Even at 50% cap retention ($4.125M) it could be a stretch.

Sources say the Jets have begun to explore the market and engage with teams on the possibility of moving Wheeler, the franchise stalwart and last remaining holdover from the Atlanta Thrashers days. Wheeler has complete control over his destination until July 1, when his full “no-move” clause converts into a five-team list to which he’d accept a trade. The early sense is Wheeler may be willing to consider a proposed destination that also is not on his list, if it’s a proper fit for his family and career.

Frank Seravalli, DFO

While there’s a chance for him to be moved at the next trade deadline, it’s most likely going to be a move come next summer.

Winnipeg will open their season at home in a tilt against the New York Rangers on October 14.