Michael Hutchinson

Getty

Jets sign Connor Hellebuyck to one-year, $2.25 million deal

1 Comment

The Winnipeg Jets took care of some important business on Monday morning, as they re-signed goalie Connor Hellebuyck to a one-year, $2.25 million contract.

The two sides were scheduled to have an arbitration hearing on Aug. 1, but as expected, they were able to hammer out  a deal before reaching that point.

After being selected in the fifth round of the 2012 draft, Hellebuyck quickly became one of the best prospects in the Jets’ system.

The 24-year-old made his NHL debut in 2015-16. He posted 13-11-1 record with a 2.34 goals-against-average and a .918 save percentage. In 2016-17, he appeared in 56 games and finished with a 26-19-4 record, a 2.89 goals-against-average and a .907 save percentage.

Even though Hellebuyck will be back next season, the Jets will have a different look between the pipes. On July 1st, they inked Steve Mason to a two-year contract worth $8.2 million.

As has been the case over the last couple of seasons, Winnipeg will continue to have a crowded crease. On top of having Mason and Hellbuyck under contract, Michael Hutchinson still has one year left on his deal at $1.15 million.

It’ll be interesting to see how head coach Paul Maurice divides starts between Hellebuyck and Mason (assuming both are completely healthy).

Mason played in 58 games with the Flyers last season and he’s making almost double what Hellebuyck is making for now.

Goaltending may finally be strength for Winnipeg Jets

Getty
16 Comments

The Ondrej Pavelec era in Winnipeg is – mercifully – over.

Seeing the regularly underwhelming netminder leave for the Rangers isn’t the only reason why the Jets’ goaltending situation looks as promising as it ever has been. With the addition of Steve Mason and the possible ascension of Connor Hellebuyck, this franchise hasn’t enjoyed this kind of optimism in net since … what, the Atlanta Thrashers days? Ever?

Now, it’s worth noting that goalies are notoriously tough to predict. Mason himself struggled in 2016-17, which was a big reason why the Philadelphia Flyers let him walk in the first place.

Still, the big picture seems as promising as ever for the Jets, at least from a goaltending perspective.

Even with last season in mind, Steve Mason’s managed a .928 even-strength save percentage since his first full season with Philly in 2013-14. That ties him for 10th place among goalies who’ve played at least 50 games, tying him with Henrik Lundqvist, Tuukka Rask, and Roberto Luongo.

Hellebuyck is the other Jets goalie who’s been strong in that area, managing a .924 even-strength save percentage, giving the impression that he could at least be an above-average backup.

If even-strength save percentage is a little too specific for you, Mason managed an excellent .918 save percentage during his time with the Flyers. Such numbers give the impression that the Jets have a good chance at getting top-10 goaltending, a refreshing thought for a franchise that’s been hung out to dry one too many times, particularly with Pavelec in net.

Could the Mason – Hellebuyck combo stand as the missing piece(s) for Winnipeg? The Jets made hearty investments in their defense and boast an underrated offensive attack, inspiring hope that this middling team might finally make a big step forward.

Heck, they might even finally win a playoff game.

“I’m just really excited to be a part of an organization that’s in the right direction,” Mason said after the signing, via the Canadian Press. “I believe that I can be a piece that helps get this team over the hump, here.”

Granted, the Jets still need to hash out an RFA deal with Hellebuyck and figure out what to do with Michael Hutchinson, who has a year remaining on his contract (and generally seems to have a lower ceiling).

Still, if the Jets can get a few more ducks in a row, things could rapidly look very promising. What a difference a couple of promising goalies can make.

All the latest pre-free agency rumblings

Getty
3 Comments

We’re less than four hours away from the free-agent market officially opening, and there are plenty of reports linking players to new teams already.

Remember, none of these deals can be made official until noon ET, so things can change in a hurry. But there’s a good chance that a lot of these verbal commitments turn into contracts once the clock strikes 12:00 p.m. ET.

To stay up to date with all today’s transactions, keep an eye on PHT’s free agent tracker.

TSN hockey insider Bob McKenzie has already linked a number of key free agents to their likely destination. According to McKenzie’s Twitter timeline, here’s what we can expect to go down today:

–The Vancouver Canucks don’t have a very good roster right now, but that won’t stop them from potentially landing three interesting free agents. It looks like they’ll be getting Sam Gagner, Michael Del Zotto and Anders Nilsson this afternoon.

–The Winnipeg Jets have been searching for a reliable goaltender to help out Connor Hellebuyck, and Steve Mason is expected to be their guy. The 29-year-old hasn’t been the most consistent goalie over the last few years, but he should be an upgrade on Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec.

–Speaking of Pavelec, McKenzie suggests he could end up being Henrik Lundqvist‘s backup in New York. The Rangers traded Antti Raanta away to Arizona, so they’re definitely in the market for a backup goalie.

–Another goalie to keep an eye on is Brian Elliott. The former Calgary Flame is probably heading to Philadelphia to replace Mason.

Trevor Daley, who has won back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Penguins, will stay in the Eastern Conference, as he’s been linked to the Detroit Red Wings.

–Dan Girardi will be playing for a different team after he was bought out by the Rangers earlier this month. That new team is likely to be the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Chad Johnson spent the 2015-16 season with the Sabres before spend last year with Calgary. It sounds like he’ll be returning to Buffalo.

–Anaheim will likely bring in veteran goalie Ryan Miller from Vancouver, which means last year’s backup, Jonathan Bernier, will be on the move. Bernier is expected to join the Colorado Avalanche, who lost Calvin Pickard in the expansion draft.

–As we wrote about yesterday, Evgeny Dadonov is expected to leave the KHL to sign a lucrative, multi-year deal with the Florida Panthers.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman also had some interesting tidbits earlier this morning, as he’s also linked potential free agents to new cities.

Here’s what Friedman is reporting:

–6-foot-6 center Martin Hanzal split last season with Arizona and Minnesota, but he isn’t expected to return to either city. Instead, Friedman says to keep an eye on the Dallas Stars. If they can land Hanzal, that would give them terrific depth down the middle with Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza already on the roster.

–The San Jose Sharks reportedly upped their offer to Patrick Marleau from one year to two years, but it’s unclear if that’s enough to get something done with the veteran. If Marleau decides to walk in free agency, Mike Cammalleri could be their fallback plan.

On another note, Blackhawks beat reporter Mark Lazerus is reporting that Patrick Sharp will be signing with Chicago. The veteran forward spent 10 seasons with the ‘Hawks.

Report: Rangers in discussion with pending UFA goalie Pavelec

Getty
3 Comments

The New York Rangers have a void to fill, after dealing goalie Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes at the draft.

It’s expected to be a busy day for free agent goalies tomorrow, as several clubs look to lock down that position before things ultimately slow down during the summer. With Raanta gone, the Rangers are among those teams.

Per Darren Dreger of TSN, the Rangers are in discussions with former Jets goalie and pending unrestricted free agent Ondrej Pavelec, who is at the end of his five-year, $19.5 million deal with Winnipeg.

Pavelec has endured his share of struggles in Winnipeg, posting underwhelming numbers, particularly save percentage.

Only once since 2011-12 did Pavelec post a single-season save percentage better than .910 — that was in 2014-15 when he had a .920 save percentage over the course of 50 games and the Jets made the playoffs for the first time since their return to Winnipeg.

The Jets placed Pavelec on waivers in October, then recalled him from the AHL in January as the tandem of Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson struggled. He won four of his eight games, posting a save percentage of .888.

He last played on Feb. 7, before undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in early March, ending his season.

Expect a busy July 1 in goalie news

Getty
1 Comment

Some teams, like the Calgary Flames, have already addressed their goaltending vacancies.

But many others haven’t, so expect tomorrow (July 1) to be a busy day in that regard.

The Philadelphia Flyers are one team to watch. They reportedly won’t be bringing Steve Mason back, leaving some to predict the signing of Brian Elliott.

Elliott, of course, was the guy the Flames hoped could solve their problems in net. Alas, it didn’t work out, and GM Brad Treliving acquired Mike Smith and Eddie Lack instead.

The Winnipeg Jets are another team to watch. Last season, the Jets waived Ondrej Pavelec and went with a tandem of Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson. Which didn’t go all that well. Pavelec’s contract is now done, but expect GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to try and land a veteran netminder to pair with Hellebuyck. The Jets have been linked to Mason, but also Elliott.

A number of other teams need backups. The Anaheim Ducks need one for John Gibson — quite likely Ryan Miller. Which brings us to the Vancouver Canucks, who’d then need a backup for Jacob Markstrom. The Canucks have been linked to Anders Nilsson.

Let’s move on to the defending champs, who don’t have have an obvious backup for Matt Murray after Marc-Andre Fleury was lost to Vegas. The Penguins would like to keep Tristan Jarry in the AHL a little while longer, which explains the speculation surrounding Antti Niemi.

The Colorado Avalanche: They lost Calvin Pickard to Vegas, opening a spot behind Semyon Varlamov. Perhaps Jonathan Bernier could fill that role?

The Buffalo Sabres: There’s been talk Chad Johnson could be on his way back. Would make sense if they don’t re-sign Nilsson.

The Boston Bruins: They’ve still got Anton Khudobin under contract for another year, but GM Don Sweeney may look for an upgrade behind Tuukka Rask.

The Toronto Maple Leafs: They could always re-sign Curtis McElhinney to back up Frederik Andersen, but GM Lou Lamoriello may try to do better.