Rangers: How will Blake Wheeler perform in 2023?

Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler (26) takes a shot on goal against the Minnesota Wild. New York Rangers, Rangers, NYR
Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers‘ biggest splash this offseason was signing veteran forward Blake Wheeler to a one-year contract. While not the flashiest move, it’s a signing that the Rangers needed to make after coming to terms with the fact that neither Vladimir Tarasenko nor Patrick Kane would be returning. Despite his old age, Wheeler could be an impactful player for the Rangers in 2023.

“Blake wants to win the Cup, and he believes this is the right spot for that,” agent Matt Keator, who also represents fellow Blueshirts Chris Kreider and Adam Fox, told Slap Shots. “Chris [Drury] took care of his trade deadline work this week. There’s not going to be a better rental.”

via NY Post

Old age hasn’t slowed Wheeler down

The biggest risk to signing Wheeler is his age. Wheeler is 36 years old and will be 37 by the time the 2023 season gets underway. He’s one of only four active NHL players that can say he played on the Atlanta Thrashers, which was relocated over 10 years ago. Despite his age, Wheeler has continued to produce at an elite level.

Last season, Wheeler managed to tally 55 points on the Winnipeg Jets. That total would have ranked fifth-most on the Rangers during the 2022-2023 season.

Wheeler’s numbers have certainly dwindled as he continues to get older, but his ability to produce points remains solid. While playing alongside Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck on the second line, Wheeler could easily boost his point total higher than last season’s.

Defensive skill could be a liability for the Rangers

While Wheeler is an elite NHL player, it’s no secret that his lack of defensive ability is one of his biggest flaws. Sloppy passes, little aggression, and slow speed have all been the cause of opposing goals for whatever team he is on.

If the Rangers were to have Wheeler placed on a line surrounded by other defensive-minded forwards, then this problem wouldn’t be as serious. However, it seems likely that he’ll be playing on the second line. Artemi Panarin is another forward who struggles defensively, and Vincent Trocheck may not be enough to counteract the negative effects both Wheeler and Panarin will bring in that facet of the game.

Hopefully, a new system brought to the ice by Peter Laviolette will help both Wheeler and Panarin turn things around and have a more solid overall style of play.

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