When July 1 rolled around, there were a number of ways Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli could’ve gone into the free-agent pool and a potpourri of unrestricted free agents he could’ve pursued.
But in the week leading up to the opening of the free-agent market, Chiarelli had already secured a talented, large player with the ability to play both wing and center, play both ends of the rink, and score in any number of ways. Although Blake Wheeler didn’t have the NHL pedigree of fellow unrestricted free agents Marian Hossa, Michael Ryder, Andrew Brunette, Sean Avery, Wade Redden or Brian Campbell, the Bruins’ scouts obviously saw the potential.
Wheeler, a former first-round pick of Phoenix, had become a UFA after his junior season at the University of Minnesota by using a glitch in the collective bargaining agreement. By the end of training camp, the Bruins’ front office personnel and coaching staff had witnessed the maturity, skill and strength Wheeler possessed … and the rest, as they say, is history. (more…)