The Winnipeg Jets earlier signed Michael Hutchinson to a two-year contract extension, meaning the Jets are going into training camp with three goaltenders who carry NHL experience.
Fans are excited at the aspect of Connor Hellebuyck leading the team back into the promise land, and potentially the Jets’ first post season win. The issue is that now the Jets have two netminders with one-way contracts in the way. This has led some to bring up the term “buy out”.
There was a time when buying out Pavelec made some sense, but that time has since passed.
I was once a fairly strong proponent of buying out Pavelec. At that point Pavelec had not performed much greater than what was easily, and cheaply, available in the free market. Pavelec did bounce up with a weird month of god-like performance at the end of the 2014-15 season, but otherwise has been his typical self.
Back then a buyout would save a ton of money, and some provisions that came out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement allowed the Jets to do this without any cost to the Jets’ Salary Cap Hit. The Jets’ had an opportunity to make a sunk cost become immensely less of a weight.
Currently Pavelec is signed for one more year, receiving a 4.75 million dollar salary while taking up 3.9 million dollars in cap space. If the Jets were to buyout Pavelec it would end up costing them just under $3.2 million and would cost $2.3 on the Salary Cap, although the buyout would be spread over two seasons.
Already the savings are becoming quite marginal (or at least as marginal as 1.6 million can be). Then include the fact that the Jets would then still be needing to sign another netminder with only three currently signed between the Manitoba Moose and the Jets for 2015-16. Some insurance would be needed for potential injuries.
Third string goaltender last season cost teams between $70-850 thousand, depending on how many games they play in the NHL. The average expected performance would not be a substantial upgrade on Pavelec, if any, in most cases.
This is quite the stark difference from the potential savings possible when the Jets could spent about $4.3 million less on goaltending and had no buyout impact on their Salary Cap Hit. There is potential gains, but with the stigma surrounding buying out contracts, and with True North hoping to optimize it’s image for free agents, there isn’t a strong enough case to remove Pavelec.
A trade is unlikely as well, as the market for goalies this year seems a lot smaller than the supply for Pavelec or better level goaltending. Any trade would likely have the Jets retaining salary and would be seen as a negative value trade where the Jets would need to invest to move the contract.
The Jets are most likely going to just ride out Pavelec’s final year.
What the Jets should do is send one of the Hutchinson or Pavelec to the American Hockey League, provided Hellebuyck is as ready for the NHL as he showed last season.
That person sent down might be Ondrej Pavelec.
Sending Pavelec or Hutchinson down to the AHL saves the Jets some of their Cap Hit, although neither would garner savings in terms of salary. Both Pavelec and Hutchinson require waivers, although goalies are very rarely picked up on waivers and Pavelec is likely waiver proof with his salary.
There was a time to buyout Pavelec, but that time is now past. Now the Jets and Pavelec will just have to play out their last season together, even if that means the team forces Hellebuyck to play another one of his prime years in the AHL.