The Boston Bruins and restricted free agent Blake Wheeler have apparently reached an impasse in contract negotiations and it appears that the matter will have to be solved in the winger's scheduled arbitration hearing Tuesday in Toronto.
Wheeler's agent Matt Keator, e-mailing from Toronto on Monday morning, told ESPNBoston.com that Wheeler will be meeting him there later in the day to prepare for a hearing.
"I am in Toronto and Blake is flying in today," Keator said. "I am anticipating arbitration tomorrow."
If the two sides do indeed go to arbitration, the Bruins will have three options once the award is handed down: They can accept the award; they can accept and then buy out another player's contract in a 48-hour buyout period granted to the team; or they can walk away from the award, making Wheeler an unrestricted free agent free to sign with any other NHL team.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has exercised the walk-away option before when he chose that route in 2006 when defenseman David Tanabe was awarded a $1.275 deal from an arbitrator. With the Bruins up tight against the cap, having just $12,229 to spend under the $59.4 million NHL salary cap, chances are Chiarelli will have to either trade a player or use the buyout option to accommodate whatever award Wheeler may receive. He could also deal Wheeler, but Keator told ESPNBoston.com last week that he didn't expect that to happen.
"I don't really know because that's a question for the Bruins, but I wouldn't think so," Keator said. "He's only 23 years old and has a bright future ahead of him. We're not concerned about that. We know the cap situation and we know Peter [Chiarelli] is working hard to deal with it. But we can't worry about it because it's out of our control."
Once this situation is resolved, it is expected that Chiarelli will shift his focus to signing rookie Tyler Seguin to his entry-level contract.
James Murphy has covered the Bruins and the NHL for the last eight seasons. He has written for NHL.com, NESN.com, Insidehockey.com and Le Hockey Magazine.