With just over a month away from the regular season, the Winnipeg Jets have a big question mark involving their backup goaltender position. As of right now, Eric Comrie appears to be the man to defend the crease when starter CONNOR HELLEBUYCK needs a night of rest.
In 2017-18, Hellebuyck started a career-high 67 games and won 44 of them, posting a 2.36 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage. So there shouldn’t be any issues with the 28-year-old starting more than 60 games this season. That being said, the one thing that always worries me is… what if something happens to Hellebuyck?
Comrie has only played nine career NHL games with three different teams, the Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils and the Jets. With that in mind, Comrie’s results are a little skewed but that doesn’t make up for his .873 save percentage and 4.07 goals-against average. Those are some tough numbers to swallow and could force this team to take a pretty massive gamble, especially if the 26-year-old serves as the starter for any length of time.
Who’d Be the Right Choice as the Primary Backup?
Given this club is expecting to compete for a Stanley Cup in 2021-22, the most obvious choice for the Jets’ backup gig should probably be Mikhail Berdin. Though Berdin hasn’t appeared in the NHL yet, he enjoyed a fairly successful performance with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL last season.
In the 14 games, Berdin registered a 6-3-2 record, recording a 2.51 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage. The KHL is no joke, it’s without question the second best league in the word and SKA St.Petersburg is one of the best teams in Russia. So for Berdin to succeed over there is no small feat.
Based on these results, I’d feel a lot more confident about Winnipeg’s goaltending situation if Berdin and Hellebuyck were paired together.
Looking outside the organization, a potential trade target could be Malcolm Subban from the Chicago Blackhawks. He wouldn’t be the most appealing choice for a backup, but compared to Comrie, the 27-year-old would likely provide some upside.
Subban started his NHL career with the Boston Bruins and played just two games with them. Then, he moved on to the Las Vegas Golden Knights where he played 63 games over three seasons, producing a .900 save percentage and a 2.93 goals-against average.
After his time with Las Vegas, Subban was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks. Last season wasn’t kind to him, as he generated a 3.20 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage through 16 games.
If general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff could pull off a cheap move, potentially sending Comrie the other way, it’d allow Subban to play under one of the best goalies in the league while also upgrading the club’s goaltender position.
In free agency, there aren’t many ideal targets. Tuukka Rask is still available but will probably re-sign with Boston once he’s closer to being fully healed from his hip surgery.
Devin Dubnyk is still up for grabs, but he’d probably prove to be too expensive for the Jets, especially since he’s likely searching for a multi-year contract. So that puts the front office in a bit of a tough spot with training camp on the horizon.
Who would you like to see as the Jets’ backup goaltender during the 2021-22 season? Let me know in the comments below.