I'm told UFA goaltender Brian Elliott has been making tentative accommodation plans for Winnipeg. He's on the #nhljets radar.— Rick Ralph (@RickRalphTSN) June 26, 2017
According to reports, Brian Elliott has been making “tentative plans” to live in Winnipeg. Now, either he really enjoys a harsh winter, or he’s planning to gear up between the pipes for the Jets next season. I’m going to assume it’s the latter.
There’s no doubt that the Jets have had a difficult time with goaltending the past few seasons. In 2016-17, they ranked 28th in the league with a .900 save percentage in all situations. Part of that can be chalked up to issues with discipline and a poor penalty kill, but even at 5-on-5, the Jets still had the fourth-lowest save percentage in the NHL.
They’ll be moving on from Ondrej Pavelec era this summer, which has been going on since the team was in Atlanta. That’s a good thing, obviously, because save for one solid season in 2014-15 that saw the Jets make their first playoff appearance, Pavelec has been terrible. It was sort of assumed Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson would be running with the net this season, so where does Brian Elliott fit into all of this?
Good thoughts from Brian Elliott, which should be enough to give pause to fans of any team with a new starter. pic.twitter.com/StUMRyfkFQ— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) June 21, 2017
Elliott is coming off a disappointing season with the Flames. He was acquired last summer in the final year of a three-year, $2.5 million AAV contract to be the solution in Calgary’s net. That didn’t happen, though. Elliott posted a .910 save percentage, which is solid, but significantly worse than what he was doing in St. Louis.
He claims that part of his issue in Calgary was having a difficult time adapting to the Flames’ defencemen and their tendencies in the defensive zone. That said, Elliott hasn’t been good anywhere else other than St. Louis, so there’s some valid skepticism as to whether he’s a product of the Blues’ strong defensive environment.
If the Jets were to sign Elliott, they would certainly have to dangle Hutchinson or Hellebuyck in a trade. Both goalies would need to be put through waivers if they were going to be sent down to the AHL, and I doubt that the Jets are interested in rolling with a three-headed-goalie monster all season.
Hellebuyck is an RFA and needs a contract and Hutchinson is signed for one more year at a $1.15 million cap hit. He can become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Hellebuyck is the younger and, likely, better goaltender, so it makes the most sense to try and deal Hutchinson to a team looking for a backup or 1B goaltender if Elliott is in fact being added to the puzzle.