Winnipeg Jets 2016-17 Roster Predictions: Goaltending

The Winnipeg Jets and their crowded crease –

With their 2015-16 season soon coming to an end the Winnipeg Jets brass certainly have more questions than they do answers about what this team will look like when the camp opens next September.  Arguably, the team is not as bad as its record will suggest making the post-mortem on the worst season since the teams return hotly contested amongst the pundits and fans alike.  Over the next few weeks, we will attempt to look into the crystal ball and try to piece together the opening day lineup, a roster that likely will and should get younger.

GOALTENDING

After the Winnipeg Jets were dismissed in four games by the Anaheim Ducks in last season’s playoffs Kevin Cheveldayoff declared that Ondrej Pavelec was going to be the team’s number one goalie going into camp this past fall.  Who could argue given Pavelec’s exceptional play with him recording three shutouts in a row cemented the team’s spot in the playoffs.  Fast forward 12 months and the narrative will be drastically different.  Terms like increased competition, greater depth, and optimism for the future will dominate the post-season interviews.

As the team’s overall defensive game goes so does the goaltending duo of Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson.  Effectively, it has gone hand in hand for five years and if you take thirty seconds to look at the goals differential stats it’s obvious this is a huge problem for the organization.  When the team needed its goalies to make a save or two in key moments neither was able to consistently step up and deliver.  Throw in the fact that Pavelec’s “pay for play” ratio (ROI) is off-side and Hutchinson is an RFA at season’s end could make this the most compelling storyline this off-season.

MICHAEL HUTCHINSON

2016-17 NHL Stats:

GPI  GS MIN GAA W L OT SO GA SV%
 30 25 1586 2.84 9 15 3 0 75 .907

Two years ago, Michael Hutchinson burst onto the scene and tore up the AHL single-handedly carrying the St. John’s IceCaps to a deep run in the playoffs.  He then carried that over to a strong NHL debut last season only to see his play reduce after Christmas as the workload increased.  Frankly, his form and confidence have never returned making him a questionable piece going forward. Michael Hutchinson is an arbitration-eligible RFA who made $ 575,000 this season and simply hasn’t done enough to warrant a long-term deal.

Back-up goalies are a dime a dozen and I’m not sure Hutch’s position in the organizational depth is a secure one given what’s on the horizon.  Is he a terrible goalie?  Absolutely not.  His numbers are better than the de-facto number one.  The fact of the matter is circumstances are what they are and his positioning for the long-term would have been served well with some strong play.  The reality is he was given an opportunity with the Pavelec injury that he didn’t grab which resulted in the call-up of Connor Hellebuyck.

ONDREJ PAVELEC

2016-17 NHL Stats:

GPI GS MIN GAA W L OT SO GA SV%
 31 29 1774 2.74 11 13 4 1 81 .906

Ondrej Pavelec will be a 29-year-old goaltender going into the final of year of his five-year contract that paid him an AAV of $ 3.9 million.  In this final year, his salary will be $ 4.75 million.  Pavelec has been criticized for the better part of five years in Winnipeg as his play and contract have not meshed well as an anointed number one goalie.  His stats have traditionally been at the bottom end of the starting goalie pool with last season being his best as an NHL goalie.
Do you buyout or trade Pavelec to make room for Hellebuyck?  I think it’s safe to say that the Winnipeg Jets will not buy-out Pavelec contracts.  A budget conscious team simply does not throw over three million dollars at a player going into the last season of his contract.  We won’t debate if they should have in the past as that shipped has sailed.  Time to move on from that narrative.

A trade this summer is also a challenging proposition for Kevin Cheveldayoff.  As fans, we tend to forget it takes two to tango and given Pavelec’s trade value this summer the number of suitors lining up to grab him will be short.  There are a few teams that may be looking for a starting goalie namely Calgary, Edmonton, and Carolina but these are teams that won’t take on $4,750,000 in actual cash for his services.  The Jets will need to eat a portion of that contract and in there lies the rub.

How much of the contract needs to be retained by the Jets before a team will hand over a draft pick or prospect?  On the flip side, how much will Cheveldayoff’s asking price be if he has to retain dollars in the deal?  Logically the ask rises as more of the contract is retained.  In fact, it could be that his value may be more at next year’s trade deadline.  Injuries for a playoff team could make Pavelec contract status more palatable and easier to absorb and garner more return especially if Pavelec’s play improve in a contract year.

CONNOR HELLEBUYCK

2016-17 NHL Stats:

GPI  GS MIN GAA W L OT SO GA SV%
 26 26 1433 2.34 13 11 1 2 56 .918

Hellebuyck has one more year left on his entry-level deal that pays him a salary of $667,500 before bonuses and carries a $925,000 AAV.  I just don’t see the Winnipeg Jets burning his entire entry-level contract in the minors.  I’m ignoring his AHL stats in this discussion to emphasize his NHL numbers, despite his play tailing off during his last few games, was above replacement.  He’s a talented goalie who’s controlled style of play exudes confidence that he will stop everything. That matters in sports, especially at the pro level.

What’s important to point out is Hellebuyck is a 22-year-old goalie who will become an RFA after next season.  I don’t see Kevin Cheveldayoff burning his entire entry-level contract in the minors given his talent and performance.  I also think Hellebuyck wants to be playing in the NHL next year to ensure he’s given the best chance at earning a solid second contract.  He will undoubtedly have some extra motivation next season.

It’s an important evaluation season for Hellebuyck one that I see needs to be done at the NHL level.  He needs to be playing full-time with the bug club to make the final determination if he’s the guy that can carry the load.

THE FUTURE

ERIC COMRIE
2016-17 AHL Stats:

GPI GS MIN GAA W L OT SO GA SV%
 43   2422 3.12 12 23 5 1 126 .908

JAMIE PHILLIPS
2016-17 WCHA Stats:

GPI  GS MIN GAA W L OT SO GA SV%
 36   2193 1.97 23 8 5 3 72 .922

The future is unquestionably bright with Eric Comrie developing well in the AHL and Jamie Phillips finishing up in the WCHA. Comrie, while Hellebuyck was up starting 26 games in the NHL this year, played very well for the Moose in his absence.  He’s a 20-year-old goalie that will need a couple more years of development and could, by some accounts, push Hellebuyck for the “goalie of the future” status.

Oddly enough the oldest of all the prospects is Jamie Phillips who has just completed his Senior year at Michigan Tech.  He had a great Junior season and was selected as a finalist for the Mike Richter Award, which recognizes the top goaltender in Division I hockey.  His numbers were astounding at 28-9-2 with a 1.74 GAA and a .933 SV% that included 6 shutouts.  He also earned “All-WCHA First Team” honors and was named to the “WCHA All-Academic Team”.  He followed that up with another great Senior year.  The incumbents are looking in the rear view mirror seeing some young talented goalies ready to make their moves.  Credit the Jets scouting department for creating some awesome organizational depth.

So what’s the end play over the course of the summer?  Unfortunately, this situation may be out of the Jets control on the short-term.  The salary cap and trade market will impact what can be done with Ondrej Pavelec.  Now, it takes two to tango and if a team is looking for the Jets to carry a large portion of Pavelec’s salary I don’t believe the Jets trade him.

If I was a betting man, Hellebuyck and Pavelec are your goaltenders when the 2016-17 season starts with Hellebuyck being the guy who will carry the load while Hutchinson finds his way to the AHL.  The life of an NHL General Manager is often riddled with nuance and circumstances with decisions predicated one key factor, choices.  The Jets may not have many choices when it comes to Ondrej Pavelec.

PREDICTION:

2016-17 Starters:  Ondrej Pavelec (1A) & Connor Hellebuyck (1B)

Caveat:  The Jets find a reasonable deal during offseason for Pavelec and if he stays he won’t survive Trade Deadline.

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Darryl Manchulenko (21 Posts)


Comments

  1. Mitch Kasprick says:

    all things being equal, I would agree … Pav and Helley start in the crease

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