McKenzie: Jets’ ‘goaltending appears to be set’ with duo of Pavelec, Hutchinson

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Photo Credit: Bruce Fedyck/USA TODAY Sports

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec has been inconsistent – or consistently sub-average, as you prefer – during his time between the pipes in Winnipeg. The veteran goaler was supplanted as Winnipeg’s number one starter by Michael Hutchinson this past the fall, but he regained his usual position on the team and was stellar down the stretch.

Though Pavelec was ultimately unable to provide the Jets with the goaltending they required to hang with the Anaheim Ducks in a first-round sweep, it has to be noted that the Stanley Cup playoffs probably don’t return to Portage and Main for the first time in 19 years without Pavelec’s late-season run of competence.

Still, in looking at what holes the Jets need to address if they hope to contend with their current core: goaltending remains at the very top of the list. Will we see the Jets change direction in any meaningful way in net this offseason? 

In the course of conducitng a standard postmortem on the Jets during an appearance on TSN 1050 radio in Toronto on Thursday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie mentioned that he doesn’t expect the Jets to address their goaltending situation this summer.

Hutchinson was great for a good part of the year and he kind of faded , and they were fortunate to have Pavelec playing as well as he did.

Some people outside of Winnipeg don’t have the same confidence as they seem to (in Winnipeg), but I would assume for now that the goaltending will be status quo. If there comes a point where Hutchinson proves that he’s ready to take over the No. 1 on a full-time basis and give them the kind of goaltending that they’ll need in the playoffs, then they could look at moving Pavelec on and spending their dollars elsewhere, but for now I think their goaltending appears to be set.

Pavelec has two years remaining on a contract that carries a $3.9 million cap-hit (though his salary is significantly higher in each of the next two seasons – a major concern for a budget conscious organization like the Jets). Considering the ease with which teams seem to be finding competent goaltending in the bargain bin of late – Devan Dubnyk and Scott Darling, step right up – it seems likely that Pavelec would be difficult to move for anything of value, frankly. 

There are a few options on the open market that could make sense for the Jets – Annti Niemi and Dubnyk come to mind – and there are a variety of talented young goaltenders that could be available in trades this summer, from Jonathan Bernier, to James Reimer, to Jacob Markstrom, to Eddie Lack. McKenzie would suggest that the Jets are unlikely to invest treasure, salary or cap space to upgrade in net though.

On some level that approach makes sense. The Jets are locked into Pavelec, and as an internal cap team seem unlikely to buyout the veteran netminder or retain salary to help lubricate a trade. Meanwhile Hutchinson is a decent bet to give them average or better goaltending in a 1A-type role, and Connor Hellebuyck is emerging as a legitimate option following an excellent season with the St. John’s Ice Caps of the American Hockey League. 

Considering that the Jets received top-10 goaltending at 5-on-5 this season and have some intriguing internal depth options, perhaps it’s most sensible for them to wait out Pavelec’s deal and give Hutchinson every opportunity to emerge as the club’s starter. 

The only issue with that approach? Prospect wealth, money and cap space aren’t the only finite assets that the Jets have to weigh with here. There’s also time. 

No one would call this Jets team old, but their best players are beginning to get up there. Bryan Little is 27, Blake Wheeler is 28, Andrew Ladd is 29, Dustin Byfuglien is 30. They’re all bona fide top of the roster pieces and they’re all about to pass their peak years (if they haven’t passed those years already). 

As good as the Jets’ prospect system is, and it’s arguably the best in hockey at the moment, is Kevin Cheveldayoff really willing to allow that core group’s best years to pass them by without solidifying the club’s goaltending?

  • t_bison

    It’s interesting that James Mirtle did a piece in the Globe & Mail a couple days ago (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/why-nhl-teams-should-stop-spending-big-on-most-goalies/article24058773/) that basically said that teams should not spend a whole ton of money on goalies because goalies are good really young and burn out early. The most telling piece is about spending the money on goalie scouts & coaches to get your goalies to peak performance.

    If I’m Chevy, I’m trading Pavs for a bag of pucks. I have some big guns needing cash next offseason and I can get a backup goalie dirt cheap on a quick one year contract to get Hellebuyck a bit more seasoning with the Moose. Plus with the Moose in-house next year Hellebuyck is just down the hallway if there is an injury

  • FishWhiskey

    Pavs put up a .920 save percentage this year. Huzah! I would like to see some statistical analysis of what his save percentage is in the final minutes of periods. As it stands all I have is 4 years of memories of last minute/soul crusher goals slipping by Pavs. I hope one of your stat gurus could shed some light on this.

    In the first three games of the Ducks series the Jets led for 185 minutes and trailed for 11 minutes. They still lost all three games. Pavs could not lock the door when it counted. This is not entirely on his shoulders as his team mates left him pretty much all on his own. The question is “why does the team fail to rally around their goalie at critical times”? Good goalies stop pucks, great goalies also bring out the best in their team mates. Pavs lacks that magic touch with the Jets.

    Pavelec has great talent and could be a star goalie but it will never happen with the Jets. There is too much old history there going back to Atlanta and the move to Winnipeg has done little to erase that. Every time I look at Pavs he has a look in his eyes like a beaten dog and that attitude will infect an entire dressing room.

    The Jets are awash in young talent and they need to be exposed to a winning attitude. Keeping Pavs around is a disservice to his potential and corrosive to the development of the young players.

    Pavelec needs to be traded or bought out for the Jets to move forward. The loyalty Chevy has shown to Pavs is commendable but it has become unhealthy to both Pavelec and the team.

    Please Chevy, do the kind and responsible thing and let Pavelec move on.