Kevin Cheveldayoff

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For the Florida Panthers, Michael Hutchinson could be the perfect fit


If the Florida Panthers are in the market for a goaltender — and they are, according to reports  — Dale Tallon might want to give the Winnipeg Jets a call.

The Jets hold the keys to the top goaltender without a job in the NHL this season. His name? Michael Hutchinson (a man feared by Chicago Blackhawks fans).

If one thing has become abundantly clear early in this current NHL season, it’s that organizational goaltender depth is something every team should be grooming.

Many teams have, or are currently, figuring out where they stand in this department. The Vegas Golden Knights have been hardest hit, so much so they had to use an emergency recall on a goaltender still trying to find his way in the Western Hockey League earlier year.

But the likes of Carey Price, Matt Murray and, most recently, Roberto Luongo, have given their respective teams no option but to look within (or claim Antti Niemi off waivers, which two of those three teams have done this year). The Canadiens found relief in Charlie Lindgren and Tristan Jarry has been a stud for the Penguins.

But Luongo’s injury might just force the Panthers in a different direction. James Reimer hasn’t been the model of consistency this season and has failed to take the starter’s reins in Florida and run with them. With Luongo on the shelf for the long-term and the fact that looking within isn’t likely to help in the Sunshine State, perhaps a phone call to Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff could help turn the Panthers’ fortunes.

Hutchinson has been on a tear with the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League, where he ranks first in save percentage with a whopping .951 and is second only to Toronto Marlies netminder Garret Sparks in goals-against average with a 1.73. In 11 games played, Hutchinson has lost just once in regulation and holds a 9-1-1 record and his rich vein of form earned him AHL’s goalie of the month honours for November.

Hutchinson has played so well that when Steve Mason went down with a concussion last month, there was a low chance that Hutchinson would be recalled. He simply wouldn’t clear waivers when Mason makes his eventual return and the Jets would be out an asset that looks increasingly likely to garner a decent return.

‘Hutch’ certainly fits the Panthers’ criteria, suggested by TSN insider Bob McKenzie: He’s 27, a young netminder that comes with 99 games of NHL experience including some meaningful action when he helped the Jets secure a playoff spot during the 2014-15 season when Ondrej Pavelec went down with injury, winning 21 games in what was his coming out party.

Hutchinson has cooled off over the past two seasons, playing second fiddle to Pavelec in 2015-16 and then Connor Hellebuyck last season. When the Jets signed Steve Mason on the first day of free agency in July, it was all but assured that Hutchinson would start the season in the AHL and ride out the final year of his contract.

It’s become clear in Winnipeg that Hutchinson didn’t like being sent down. Most don’t. He has yet to give an interview to scribes this season.

But despite being upset, he’s handled it (mostly) the correct way: take it on the chin and go out and be a professional on the ice.

It could end up being the right fit at the right time for both parties. The Panthers need someone to steady the ship. Hutchinson, in the final year of a two-year contract, needs some NHL games to make his case for a spot on an NHL roster next season.

And the Panthers aren’t bringing Niemi back.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Jets’ biggest question: Who will take the reins in goal?

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One of the bigger questions for the Winnipeg Jets heading into the 2015-16 season is who will grab the starter’s role in goal and run with it.

Ondrej Pavelec began the 2014-15 season as the Jets’ No. 1 goaltender starting 15 of the first 16 games. He started sharing the net with rookie Michael Hutchinson in late November and lost his starting role by February.

“Ondrej played through some difficult circumstances this year,” Cheveldayoff said per the Winnipeg Sun. “Pro athletes have to learn how to handle those kinds of adversities.”

Pavelec finished the season with a 22-16-8 record while posting a career-best .920 save percentage and a 2.28 G.A.A. in 50 regular season appearances. While the Jets were in the hunt for a playoff spot, Pavelec went 9-2-1 and recorded three shutouts in his final 12 decisions. The 27-year-old struggled again in the playoffs posting an .891 save percentage and a 3.73 G.A.A. as the Jets were swept by the Anaheim Ducks.

Hutchinson finished with 38 appearances last season posting a 21-10-5 record to go along with a 2.39 G.A.A. and .914 save percentage. The 25-year-old had a strong first half, but faltered down the stretch posting an .890 save percentage in his final 15 games.

Despite the inconsistencies, Cheveldayoff believes the Pavelec can be the team’s starter going forward.

“We’re excited to have him as our No. 1 goalie,” Cheveldayoff said during his end-of-season media availability. “We’re really excited to have (Hutchinson) as a guy that can push and continue to do the things that he’s done.”

Jets fans should also expect Connor Hellebuyck to challenge Hutchinson for the backup role at camp this season. Hellebuyck posted a 28-22-5 record to go along with a 2.58 G.A.A. and a .921 save percentage in his rookie season with the St. John’s IceCaps.

The 22-year-old was the starting goaltender at the AHL all-star game and represented the U.S. at the world championship leading the Americans to a third place finish.

Related: Under Pressure: Dustin Byfuglien

Poll: What should the Jets do with Andrew Ladd?


Jets’ GM Kevin Cheveldayoff doesn’t only have to make a decision on what to do with Dustin Byfuglien, he also has to deal with the matter of his captain Andrew Ladd heading into the final year of his five-year, $22 million contract.

Ladd is coming off a season in which he scored 24 goals and a career-high 62 points while averaging 20:04 in ice time a night.

“Like everything, there’s lots of moving parts that come into play,” said Cheveldayoff of contract talks with Byfuglien and Ladd. “But we’ve had good conversations with the agents for both players.”

Ladd underwent sports hernia surgery in May and is expected to be ready for the start of the season.

“I’ve skated the last couple of weeks and I don’t have any ill effects,” he told last week. “It’s been a different summer because I don’t usually take a whole lot of time off and I get back into it quickly. This was a slower start to the offseason, and I kind of (eased) my way into things, doing different stuff. But it’s feeling good, and I’m excited to be back on the ice.”

The 29-year-old, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, is likely in line for a raise on the $4.5 million he will make this season.

The Winnipeg Free Press reported last month that Ladd is seeking an extension “north of $6 million” annually, and “in the range of $40 million” overall.

For his part, Ladd appears committed to staying in Winnipeg and trying to win a Stanley Cup with the Jets.

“I think with the group we have, a lot of character guys in that room and no one that’s really satisfied, that’s what gets everybody excited, that we know what we have and the kind of people we have and we’re excited for the opportunity we have with that group,” Ladd said.

OK, time to vote:

Related: Looking to make the leap: Nikolaj Ehlers

Report: The Jets have received calls on Myers


Defenseman Tyler Myers made his Winnipeg Jets debut Thursday night playing 21:23 and registering a minus-1 rating in Winnipeg’s 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators.

However, following Wednesday’s blockbuster deal with the Buffalo Sabres, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has already received calls on Myers.

According to hockey insider Darren Dreger, the Jets would like to add another top nine forward to their lineup. As a result, teams have called asking whether Cheveldayoff would be willing to part with Myers for a top forward.

Dreger says a deal invlovling Myers won’t happen before the deadline as the Jets would like to see how the blueliner fits in Winnipeg before making any further moves.

Under Pressure: Ondrej Pavelec


“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.

For the Winnipeg Jets, we pick… goalie Ondrej Pavelec.

If there’s a guy that’s beyond worthy of being put under the microscope in Winnipeg it’s the 26-year-old Czech netminder.

Pavelec has been a lifer in the Jets organization getting his start with the team back in Atlanta. In the team’s final year in Georgia, he posted what have turned out to be the best numbers of his career going 21-23-9 with a .914 save percentage and a 2.73 goals-against average.

Since moving to Manitoba, life hasn’t been great for him on the ice. Check out his stats from the past three seasons:

2011-12:  29-28-9   .906    2.91

2013:      21-20-3   .905    2.80

2013-14:  22-26-7  .901    3.01

It was following that 2011-12 season the Jets re-signed Pavelec to a five-year, $19.5 million deal. Considering how average that season was, many people questioned it.

Now that his numbers haven’t improved (they’ve gotten worse) and he’s got three years left on a deal that counts for $3.9 million against the cap, it had some wondering if the Jets would use a compliance buy out on him during the offseason. That didn’t happen and now it’s on him to prove he’s worthy of the faith being put in him. After all, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff declared Pavelec as their No. 1 goalie heading into next season.

To make things a bit more dramatic, the Jets re-signed backup Michael Hutchinson to a two-year deal after he had three impressive games at the end of last season. Will he be enough to put pressure on Pavelec to perform at his peak best? That’s up to Paul Maurice, but he was outplayed by Al Montoya last season and still held down the starting job.

With the fans in Winnipeg growing weary of losing and Pavelec’s numbers not living up to the billing of being a starting NHL goalie, a shake-up could be on the horizon if he doesn’t improve quickly. It may be time for him to become “Pavelectric” on a nightly basis.

More Jets day coverage:

It’s Winnipeg Jets Day on PHT

Largely unchanged Jets will have tough time in reloaded Central