Wheeler will sign with Boston
Rochester’s Stuart plays for Bruins
Former Gophers hockey player Blake Wheeler, who opted to become a free agent this spring rather than sign with the Phoenix Coyotes, has agreed to a deal with the Boston Bruins.
Wheeler can’t officially sign until July 1, but his agent, Matt Keator, said the two sides have agreed on a two-year contract.
"We talk to different teams," Keator said, "but in the end Blake’s heart was in Boston. They’ve done a good job of developing some young players, including Milan Lucic, David Krejci and (Rochester’s) Mark Stuart, another Minnesota guy."
Another former Gopher, Phil Kessel, has played the past two seasons with the Bruins after being their first-round pick in the 2006 draft. Keator said Wheeler realizes it could take some time for him to develop into an NHL-caliber winger. Wheeler (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) primarily played center for the Gophers.
"Blake has some work ahead of him to learn how to play a big-man’s game," Keator said. "(Gophers coach) Don Lucia would be the first to tell you Blake played out of position with the Gophers.
"He will be going from being a center on an Olympic-sized sheet to playing the wing on a (smaller) NHL rink. If he needs to spend some time in the AHL (at Providence) first, Blake is ready to do what he needs to do."
Wheeler, who played high school hockey at Breck, was taken fifth overall by Phoenix in the 2004 draft. He elected to turn pro following his junior season and decided to pick the team he would sign with rather than accept an offer from the Coyotes.