May 30, 2008 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Wheeler Becomes NHL Free Agent

CHN Staff Report

The Phoenix Coyotes and Blake Wheeler could not reach agreement on a contract after 30 days, making Wheeler a free agent.

Last month, Wheeler decided to announce his intention to leave Minnesota after having played three seasons.

Phoenix selected Wheeler with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Because it was four years since his selection, Wheeler could become a free agent if he didn't sign.

Because he was drafted under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement, Wheeler was able to sign with Phoenix for a higher amount than he can now, where he is subjected to the new CBA. But apparently, Wheeler wanted the flexibility to sign with a team that will presumably fast-track him to the NHL.

"I'm actually quite stunned," Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney said Thursday. "Quite frankly, we made him an offer significantly better than any other contract he can get (right now)."

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