The Winnipeg Jets as an organization have a crowded crease.
We obviously have Hellebuyck as the unquestioned number one goalie in Winnipeg. Laurent Brossoit has established himself as a strong number two for next season, but his restreicted free agent status does make things a bit murky. With Eric Comrie (also an RFA) turning 24 this July, and Mikhil Berdin making some rather remarkable progress from the ECHL to AHL this past season, not to mention a couple of more prospects worth keeping an eye on in the system, one has to wonder if this is an ideal time for the Jets to trade one of their goalies in an effort to get picks or maybe prospects at another position in return.
Goalies Upon Goalies
There is a fair argument to be made that the Jets currently boast one of the most impressive groups of goaltending depth in the league. From the top through the minor leagues of the AHL and ECHL and even into the junior USHL level, the Jets have a group of goalies that a lot of other NHL clubs would be envious of.
Some teams don’t have a single goalie that you could slot into their top ten prospects list, while the Jets might be able to list both Eric Comrie and Mikhail Berdin in theirs.
And beyond the “core four” names mentioned, there is also 24 year old Ken Appleby who put up some good numbers this past season with the ECHL Jaxsonville Icemen and 19 year old Jared Moe who was the Jets sixth round draft pick last year who had a couple of strong seasons with the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL and will be joining the University of Minnesota this fall.
The bottom line is the Jets have a surplus in goal, but for the purpose of our deciding which goalie is expendable, we’ll leave Appleby and Moe out of the conversation as it’s likely that neither would fetch anything more than a low round pick anyway.
The Incumbent Backup
A lot of what may or may not happen this summer will depend on Laurent Brossoit. A year ago his signing with the Jets was met with indifference if not outright cynicism as he struggled to find his way in four seasons with the Edmonton system, but his past year in Winnipeg has opened some eyes and confirmed that he could be a dependable NHL backup. Granted it’s one season, but with flashes of his ability in Edmonton combined with what he actually did in Winnipeg, there isn’t reason to believe he’ll regress next season.
At the age of 26 though and with new found confidence as well as a change in training habits, Brossoit may want one more chance a starters role. As he is a restricted free agent, Winnipeg still holds most of the cards in how this plays out, but Brossoit could opt for a one or two year deal with a raise from the $650,000 he made this past season, but an understanding that he’s still behind Connor Hellebucyk in the depth chart.
A two year deal wouldn’t be the worst option for Brossoit. One never knows what the future will hold and if he can continue to prove himself a worthy number two goalie, maybe even step up as a starter in the unfortunate event of an injury, his being an unrestricted free agent at the age of 28 after that two year deal is over could still prove to be quite a boon. After all, Cam Talbot was able to take a successful run as Henrik Lundqvist’s backup in New York and eventually parlay it to a four year deal with the Edmonton Oilers at the age of 29.
A two year deal of course buys the Jets a bit of time and at some point – likely in the second season of 2020-21, a trade of Brossoit can be made before said contract expires to get some sort of value back.
Going back to the Cam Talbot example, the Rangers traded him that summer for three picks – the 57th, 79th and 184th picks – during the 2015 draft. Brossoit might not fetch that kind of return, but the potential is there especially if there happens to be an NHL team in need of goaltending which almost always is a thing.
The No Longer Heir Apparent
This brings us to Eric Comrie. Brossoit at this point has a known record at the NHL level and while it’s only really been one strong season, it’s still more than what Comrie can boast for the moment.
Comrie has been with the Mantiboa Moose for the past four seasons and has been a steady performer with flashes of promise. Comrie’s brief stints in the NHL have been far less ideal. In five appearances scattered over the last three seasons, he has a 2-3-0 record with 4.21 career goals against average and a career .870 save percentage.
It’s almost certain Brossoit is the safer bet as Hellebuyck’s backup for next season, but if he or the Jets can’t see eye to eye on a future deal then the Jets may in fact trade Brossoit and take a leap of faith yet again this summer hoping that Comrie this time is ready to prove doubters wrong much like Brossoit did this past season.
But assuming that the Jets and Brossoit can come to a deal of one or two seasons that shores up things at the NHL level. Comrie is then left in this weird spot where playing in the AHL doesn’t exactly benefit his development any more, but he doesn’t appear to be NHL ready either and chances are very low he earns an NHL spot over Hellebuyck or Brossoit. He could continue playing in the AHL for the Moose, but Mikhail Berdin this past season proved he too is a capable AHL starter and is younger than Comrie, so relegating either of them to backup AHL duty is less than ideal.
That would mean the Moose would have a 1A-1B goalie platoon and that option as well is ok, but if your aim is to properly develop a goaltender into being an every day NHL starter, having two goalies split duties in what is usually a sporadic AHL schedule nerfs that plan to a degree.
Ideally this summer the Jets look to trade…
As mentioned, the key to all this is Brossoit. How does he feel after last season? How many years would he be willing to give Winnipeg as the backup to Hellebuyck? How much can the Jets afford to give him with their salary cap situation the way it is? There is also a risk that Brossoit’s past season was an aberration and he falters next season, killing any trade value he may have this summer.
You could trade Berdin, but his stock still feels like it’s on the rise and with him still on an entry level contract through the 2020-21 season there is no way the Jets could get back the kind of value they’d be trading away there.
Trading Eric Comrie may be the best option for everyone involved. His ‘value’ as a prospect has taken a hit but there is still something there to at least warrant a pick or a prospect back the other way, it may also give the 23 year old Comrie a fresh start with a new franchise.
Or the Jets could look at trading Hellebuyck this summer, put their faith in Brossoit and bring up one of Comrie or Berdin to back up.
Nah. That maybe a little too crazy a thought.