Is this the year of Connor Hellebuyck?

Netminders have usually served as a source of frustration for the Winnipeg Jets’ faithful over the last handful of years. Next year could be different if 23-year-old Connor Hellebuyck takes over the reigns as the teams number one goaltender. While Hellebuyck may be ready for the big leagues in the eyes of many, will he be appointed the most starts out of the Jets three goaltenders?

There are many logistics that could prevent this situation, even though many are in the belief Hellebuyck is ready, he might not end up being slotted number one on the depth chart. 

The Jets have Michael Hutchinson under contract for the next two seasons and Ondrej Pavelec under contract for next season, both are one way contracts which makes things tricky for Hellebucyk to break through. The easiest solution would be for the Jets to send down Hellebuyck because he’s on a 2 way deal and still does not require waivers. Sending Hellebuyck down would prevent the team from choosing between Hutchinson or Pavelec. 

But going the easiest route (contract wise) isn’t the smartest call, you want your best player getting the best opportunity, right?

Hellebucyk has proven that he is the better performing goaltender of the three thus far and no matter what move the Jets would have to do to make the former NCAA goaltender of the year the team’s starting goaltender, they should pull the trigger on it. 

Last season in Hellebuyck’s brief taste of NHL action, he showcased he was the organizations best goaltender in a mere 26 games. The UMass-Lowell alum went 13-11 and managed a 2.34 goals against average to go along with a 0.918 save percentage. Those numbers don’t jump off the page and if your just looking off stats he won’t intrigue you but it should be noted that Hellebuyck was playing behind a weak team that was riddled with injuries all throughout the year. 

Hellebuyck showed he was ready for the NHL and could handle the weight of being a starting goaltender. 

When Ondrej Pavelec returned from an extended injury, the Jets elected to send Hellebuyck to the minors. The move was surprising considering all Hellebuyck had done and it was equally as surprising the Jets rushed back Pavelec and threw him back in to the fold as quickly as they did. The trust that the Jets have have always invested in Ondrej Pavelec had always been strange and one hopes it doesn’t continue despite Hellebuyck proving he’s the better goalie. 

Sending Hellebuyck back to the minors caused another problem for the organization because it took opportunity away from their other coveted goaltending prospect in Eric Comrie. Comrie’s games were scaled back and his stellar season he had during Hellebuyck’s promotion went undermined when Hellebuyck returned to AHL action. 

The Hellebuyck re-assignment did more harm than good last season and making the move this season would hurt the team even more and hurt their playoff chances (and maybe intentionally soon)

 It’s a common trend for teams to over ripen their goaltenders. Hoping to ease them in to the big leagues and let them come along slowly rather than putting them in the crease sooner rather than later. But in the case of Hellebuyck, he’s ready for the NHL game. Two consistent AHL all star game nominations and his impressive showing at this past years IIHF World Championships ( Hellebuyck lead Team USA to a bronze medal)  should excite Jet fans and make their mouths water for what the future could hold. 

So how do the Jets work around moving one of their other two goaltenders who both have two way contracts? 

While Ondrej Pavelec’s play has been subpar over the last few years, there could teams that would trade for him. With a year remaining at a 3.9 million dollar cap hit, the Jets could explore the market and likely find suitors if they volunteered to retain salary. 

Michael Hutchinson may have just been signed but that doesn’t mean he’s safe from the chopping block. Barring a solid training camp, Hutchinson is likely a good candidate to be axed. Sending him to the Moose is also a viable option, although there is a chance the team would likely lose him to waivers. But, after a tough sophomore slump, there might not be much of a market for number 34. 

No matter how the Jets would have to do it; they need to give Connor Hellebuyck the opportunity and let him run with it. Neither Michael Hutchinson nor Ondrej Pavelec have the potential Hellebuyck has and honestly even at this rate neither can get the job done the way Hellebuyck showed he could. With a healthier and improved roster ahead of Hellebuyck, the sky is the limit for Hellebuyck and the Jets and his first full season is the first step in that.

  • FishWhiskey

    If I were Hellebuyck and got sent down to the Moose this year I would hire both Allan Walsh and Kurt Overhardt and challenge them as to who could bring the most savage rectal anguish to Chevy until signing with any team but the Jets after my RFA.

    I don’t know how much Pavelec and Stuart want for the photos of Chevy and Chippy doing things that may not be spoken of. But its time they pay up and get these two monkeys off the back of the team.

    Come on boys. Do the right thing and lets win some hockey games!

  • FishWhiskey

    Oh, by the way Jacob. In your article, which made many good points, you said:

    “Michael Hutchinson may have just been signed but that doesn’t mean he’s safe from the chopping block. Barring a solid training camp, Hutchinson is likely a good candidate to be axed.”

    Keep in mind that the Jets will have to expose a goalie in the expansion draft this spring and Pavelec will not qualify as he will be UFA after this season so they will have to expose Hellebuyck or Hutchinson. Hutch was signed to be exposed.

  • #12MorrisLukowich

    I disagree that there is a trade market for Pavelec, he just hasn’t proven to be better than backup caliber, the fact that his awful contract ends this year makes him even less desirable because teams can’t use him as their goalie to be exposed in the expansion draft.

    There are at least a dozen teams that don’t have their expansion draft goalie situation settled, good on Chevy for having the smarts to get Hutch signed for two years. The Cam Ward contract was heavily criticized but it was an obvious expansion draft play. My fear is that Hutch won’t clear waivers, if there wasn’t an expansion draft coming up I wouldn’t be worried about it at all, but there’s a high chance he doesn’t clear. Then we don’t have a goalie exposed and we need to sign some plugger anyways, I doubt Chevy makes that gamble.

    Pavelec backing up Eric Comrie on the Moose is my dream scenario, but we all know that they would never do that, the team is extremely loyal to it’s veterans.

    Sending Helle to the Moose is a slap in the face to the players, especially the good vets like Buff, Wheeler and Little who just want to win already, not to mention the fans. If he has a bad training camp this will happen but I don’t see it.

    My prediction is that the Jets carry three goalies this year, just like Calgary did last year. They’ll just go with whoever is hot, which I assume will give Helle most of the starts. They’ll probably overplay Pavelec again in hopes that he strings a few good games together at the same time that some other team has their starter go down with an injury perhaps setting up a trade, but I’m skeptical that we’ll get rid of him before the end of the year.

    Even though Hutch will be our exposed goalie I don’t see Vegas taking him, there will be other way better goalies to choose from.

    Should be interesting to see how it plays out!

  • FishWhiskey

    It is time the Jets start promoting some of their young players to the big team on a permanent bases. I hope to see Hellebuyck, Liane, Conner, Petan, Lemieux and Morrissey start the season with the Jets and in the lineup not in the press box. Let them play and make rookie mistakes. I hope they don’t start the season with Thorburn, Stuart, Pavelec, Copp, Burmistrov, Matthias, Postma and Peluso. The Jets and the rest of the league talk about how many NHL ready players the Jets have so let the kids play. The future is now.

  • FishWhiskey

    Jacob, you describe yourself as a freelancer, editor and writer. If you’re serious about putting substance behind those descriptions, and not writing at something near a level of illiteracy, you might want to learn the difference between reins vs. reigns, team’s vs. teams, Jets’ vs. Jets, organization’s vs. organizations, you’re vs. your, year’s vs. years, and led vs. lead, to name only the examples of exceedingly bad writing that appear in this story. You might also want to brush up on (or study for the first time) syntax, sentence structure, and hyphenation, especially of compound adjectives. And please, no lame excuses about lack of time or someone else editing the story to justify the rank amateurism. On the plus side, you can take solace knowing that pretty much all of the “writers” there are just as bad or worse.

    • FishWhiskey

      Well Doc, you are certainly welcome to voice your opinion.

      I, for one, am just very happy that these fellows take the time and make the effort to research and publish these articles which I have the good fortune to read for free and for which they get paid a pittance.

      A shout out and thanks to all the writers on this site. Keep up the fine work lads!

  • FishWhiskey

    Helle has excelled in just about every league he has played in. The NAHL, College Hockey, the AHL, The IIHF World Hockey Championships, and now the NHL.

    The Year of Hellebuyck should have been 2015, but I guess the Kets organization has some bizarre love affair with Pavelec.

    If the Jets do not anoint Helle as the starting goalie for the upcoming season, I will question the integrity of True North.