Photograph of Ondrej Pavelec by Michael Miller, via Wikimedia Commons
The Winnipeg Jets managed to get their starting goaltender under contract earlier today, inking Ondrej Pavelec to a five-year deal with an average cap hit of $3.9 million.
From hockey-reference.com, the following chart shows Pavelec and other goaltenders with a comparable save percentage over the past three seasons:
That’s not a particularly flattering list for the Jets. Martin Brodeur is a legendary goaltender, but injuries and age have had a heavy impact on his performance over the past few seasons – he’s certainly been up-and-down over that span. Brian Elliott, meanwhile, just saved his career with a standout performance in St. Louis.
Beyond those two, there’s a host of 1A/1B types on that list. Corey Crawford is the starter in Chicago, but is typically identified as their biggest weakness. Devan Dubnyk has been the Oilers’ best goalie the last few years, but still has not been entrusted with the starting job over an entire season. Michal Neuvirth and Jean-Sebastien Giguere are both candidates for the starting job in their respective cities, but are likely to end up in 1A and 1B situations (respectively).
Based on what Pavelec has done to date over his NHL career, he simply isn’t a clear-cut starting option at this point. The soon to be 25-year old could continue to improve – perhaps matching his 2010-11 performance in Atlanta – but he’s also had a pair of 0.906 SV% seasons. He’s a 1A goalie at this juncture of his career; last season, one could even argue he played more like a 1B goalie.
This isn’t a good contract, but the Jets were also in a tough spot, given that Pavelec had an offer for his services from a KHL club. Commenting on the deal, Pavelec noted that option:
Everybody knows that I had an offer from the KHL. It’s hardly a secret. It was really good money but . . . first thing I was thinking is I want to stay in Winnipeg.
Now he will be in Winnipeg, likely for the duration of that contract. Unfortunately, for the Jets to get their money’s worth out of the deal, Pavelec is going to need to play much better than he has to date. As it stands, there’s no question that this sort of deal is a significant overpay for a goalie with a career save percentage of 0.907 in the NHL.
Update: Pavelec’s agent, Allan Walsh, offered the following comment to Yahoo’s Greg Wyshynski:
Let’s say Carey Price is at 7 years and $6 million a year. Devan Dubnyk’s going to hit $3 million. Tuukka Rask is going to hit $3 million. Cory Schneider is going to hit $3 million. There’s a new wave of goalies taking over No. 1 starting jobs in the NHL from the older guard. Between those goalies, statistically and in experience at a No. 1 goalie, Pavs should be slotted under Price. The question was how far he should be slotted under Price; but he should be slotted ahead of Dubnyk, Schneider and Rask. That’s the essence of the negotiation.
Rask has played 102 NHL games, posting a 0.926 SV%. Schneider has played 68 games, with a 0.928 SV%. Dubnyk has played 101 games with a 0.910 SV%. Pavelec has played 187 games, with a 0.907 SV%. The only thing that Pavelec brings to the table that the others don’t is the "I’ve already played as many games as a typical starter" label – based on performance in those games, there’s no reason to believe Pavelec is ahead of any of the players Walsh mentioned. The idea that he’s ahead of Rask or Schneider is ludicrous.
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