Winnipeg Jets re-sign Ondrej Pavelec, pay top dollar

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.

This week by Jonathan Willis

  • BobB

    Yikes. That’s a whole lot of dough for a career .918evsv% goalie that’s seen ~4400evsa.

    If he had a huge offer in the KHL, … well, I would have carried his luggage for him if I was the GM.

    Howard is ~4400 evsa… .922evsv% – 2.25mil.
    Halak is ~4900evsa… .923evsv% – 3.7mil.

    Pavalec got overpaid by at least 1 million (cap hit).

    • Robert Cleave

      Indeed. The Jets really should have gone to arbitration with Pavs. If he’d bolted, c’est la vie, and if not, I have a sneaking suspicion that Allan Walsh might have had a harder time waving away Pavelec’s iffy performance to the arbiter than he obviously had with Cheveldayoff.

  • Should Pavelec be everything he was in 2010-11, we’ll be getting market value. Anything less performance-wise and we’ll be overpaying. For a half-decade. Sorry Eddie Pasquale, hope you didn’t plan on developing into something.

  • Robert Cleave

    I really wonder what numbers would Rask have if he played for Jets.. I think this whole critique is based solely on that one stat which is hardly fair.. But it is true that Pavelec is terribly inconsistent.

    • People consistently overvalue the impact of defense on a goaltender’s numbers.

      Take Devan Dubnyk. He plays for a miserable defensive team in Edmonton – a team far worse in their own end than Winnipeg – and has a 0.910 SV% on his career, better than Pavelec’s. What would he do on a better team? Probably not a ton more.

      Luongo hasn’t been much different on a great VAN team than he was on a miserable FLA squad. Vokoun’s posted similar numbers everywhere he’s played, and he’s seen it all. Pavelec has been both a 0.906 and a 0.914 goaltender for ATL/WPG; he’s not jumping around based on the defense fluctuating year-to-year.

  • MC Hockey

    Even though Price is good, 7 years at 6 million makes me wonder if the Habs would not be better off exploring trade options and looking for cheaper alternatives. He’s good, but he hasn’t established himself as elite and it’s a huge gamble to pay this much for this long on the notion that he will.

    Doubt the new management sees it that way, of course.

  • Robert Cleave

    It’s terrible. The end.

    Honestly though, after this weekend’s fumble at the draft table, I’m not really surprised. This team is headed for a long and deep run at the bottom of the East.

  • MC Hockey

    The raw goalie stats (SV%/GAA), while useful, can be pretty flawed. The position is far more situational and a lot less cut-and-dried than those stats would suggest.

    But beyond that even, Rask and Schneider have both played back-up roles on significantly better teams, so not only do they have a stronger team in front, they’re generally receiving favourable match-ups. That, in theory, should relate to a favourable shift in numbers as well.

    I have no qualms saying that I think Schneider will be the best of the three. I think under similar situations, Rask is an extremely comparable goalie to Pavelec. But if any other team had a crack at Schneider right now, there’s be at least a couple which would throw $5-mil or more at him.