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Hellebuyck turns career year into $37 million extension with Jets

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The Winnipeg Jets to-do list got a little shorter on Thursday.

The Jets locked up their goaltending future, signing Vezina runner-up Connor Hellebuyck to a six-year, $37 million contract.

Hellebuyck had a breakout season in 2017-18, posting 44 wins to set a new franchise record for the Jets (and a new record for American-born goalies) in a single season. He also posted franchise marks in shutouts with six and save percentage with a .925, as he seamlessly turned into one of the league’s premier netminders.

And now he’s getting paid like one.

Hellebuyck becomes the sixth highest paid goaltender in the NHL, behind Carey Price ($10.5 million AAV), Henrik Lundqvist ($8.5 million AAV), Sergei Bobrovsky ($7.425 million AAV) Tuukka Rask  ($7 million AAV) and Pekka Rinne ($7 million AAV). Hellebuyck’s contract comparables include Braden Holtby, Frederik Anderson and Semyon Varlamov.

The deal means the Jets will avoid going to arbitration with Hellebuyck, who was a restricted free agent.

The move also means that that general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has one less RFA to sign in an offseason rife with talented players needing raises. CapFriendly has the Jets sitting with $20.6 million in cap space, with a couple of bigger ticket items to sort out soon.

Cheveldayoff will now turn his attention to fellow RFAs in Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey, the team’s top, and one of the NHL’s best shutdown pairings. Trouba is looking for a long-term deal while the Jets will likely be able to bridge Morrissey. The Jets also have Brandon Tanev, Adam Lowry and Marko Dano to sign after the trip filed for arbitration.

Winnipeg will also be looking to extend 44-goal man Patrik Laine, who is likely to come close to double digits in AAV, if not exceed them.

Among starting goalies this season, Hellebuyck showed very well, posting an xSv% of 92.92%, good for fifth in the NHL with a minimum of 1,500 minutes played.

Hellebuyck made huge strides in his game after a disappointing 2016-17 campaign. Hooking up with Adam Francilia at the NET360 camp in British Columbia, Hellebuyck appeared to re-invent himself and the results were immediate as he erased many of the doubts people had of him coming into the year.

The Michigan native was instrumental in leading the Jets to the Western Conference Final for the first time in franchise history, and Hellebuyck was also named to the NHL All-Star game.

The Jets will enter the 2018-19 season with Laurent Brossoit handling backup duties after the team traded Steve Mason to the Montreal Canadiens as a part of a salary dump. The Jets signed Mason last offseason to a two-year, $8.2 million deal after Hellebuyck’s rough season previous, but he quickly became expendable because of Hellebuyck’s play and myriad injuries that plagued Mason throughout last season.

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

Jets shake off slow start, beat Predators in Game 3

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Maybe it took seeing their crowd get silenced after the Nashville Predators went up 3-0 through the first period. Maybe Paul Maurice tore paint off the walls during a locker room speech. Maybe it was just a matter of time before we saw the full might of the Winnipeg Jets.

Whatever fueled that outburst, the Jets’ second period effort was a sight to behold. They turned a 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 lead and transformed a quiet audience into the raucous atmosphere people expected. Ultimately, Winnipeg beat Nashville 7-4 in Game 3 to take a 2-1 series lead.

That margin of victory was enhanced by two empty-net goals, and the score was close even when the ice seemed titled in the Jets’ favor.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Blake Wheeler had been knocking on the door for much of Tuesday night, and he was finally rewarded with the game-winner on the power play with about five minutes remaining in the third period. Tabbing a best Jet might come down to preference. Wheeler scored two goals and one assist. Dustin Byfuglien was a catalyst for that second-period surge, dancing his way to two goals and an assist of his own. Jacob Trouba, Paul Stastny, Mark Scheifele, and Patrik Laine all made big plays to spark Winnipeg’s rally.

Goalie Connor Hellebuyck also showed that he can shake off a tough stretch. After giving up three goals on 12 shots during that rocky first period, Hellebuyck only allowed a Filip Forsberg rocket the rest of the way.

He’s not the only goalie who will need a short memory in this series.

Tough loss for the Predators

Pekka Rinne made some big stops to keep Nashville within striking distance for much of this game, yet he’s also allowed nine goals during the past two games and 13 goals so far in this series. Rinne has his fair share of critics, so expect at least some rumblings about his psyche.

Rinne’s issues in Game 3 weren’t limited to goals allowed.

Less than 30 seconds after Wheeler’s 5-4 goal (the eventual game-winner), Rinne was whistled for slashing Adam Lowry. It was in retaliation to a swat by Lowry, but Rinne’s windup was the sort that was likely to draw an official’s eye:

This subplot combines two concerns for the Predators, depending upon whom you ask. The first is Rinne’s perceived up-and-down play, which is debatable. The more black-and-white worry was about Nashville’s discipline, and the Predators were on the wrong end of the whistles late in Game 3.

The Predators received the final three penalties of the contest, and four of the final five. That Rinne penalty happened after the Jets went up in the third period, making Nashville’s task of tying the contest up that much tougher. Overall, special teams worked out reasonably well for the Predators (Nashville went 2-for-4 on the power play while Winnipeg went 1-for-5), but that’s an area that Peter Laviolette really needs to monitor.

(The Predators were the NHL’s most penalized team during the regular season.)

In tonight’s case, the Jets showed that they can roll with the punches under the microscope of playoff competition. The Predators have done that before, but they’ll face a steep challenge in doing so against a team as talented, versatile, and mean as the Jets.

If the rest of this series follows the trend of the first three games, it should be fun to watch and very difficult to predict.

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Game 4 of this entertaining, feisty series takes place on NBCSN on Thursday, with puck drop slated for 9:30 p.m. ET. You can catch the livestream here.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

GoFundMe campaign for Humboldt Broncos surpasses $2 million

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There are now 15 people dead following a bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos, a Saskatchewan junior hockey team, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said on Saturday.

The bus, which was carrying 29 players and coaches, along with the driver, was hit by a semi-trailer as the team was on its way to Nipawin for a playoff game Friday night. Fourteen people were injured.

Among the dead are Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, team captain Logan Schatz, 20, Adam Herold, 16, Jaxon Joseph, 20,  and radio announcer Tyler Bieber.

“Our thoughts are with the players, families, coaches, team management and all those throughout the community who have been affected by the tragedy involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “The NHL mourns the passing of those who perished and offers strength and comfort to those injured while traveling to play and be part of a game they all love.”

Via the CBC:

Speaking at the news conference on Saturday, RCMP Saskatchewan Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zablocki revealed new details about the crash and the investigation.

He said the male driver of the semi-trailer was not injured and, although he was detained temporarily after the collision, he has now been released.

Zablocki said it was too early to comment on the cause of the collision, but he confirmed the semi-trailer was travelling westbound on Highway 335 when it collided with the bus travelling northbound on Highway 35.

The tragedy hit close to home for many around the hockey world.

“All the best stories are told on the busses, in the locker rooms, in the private areas where it’s just them. It’s contained,” said Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “It’s where the friendships are born, the anticipation builds, the quietness of a bus after a tough loss — all things that you go through when you’re playing a sport. It’s so much a part of sporting life, hockey life, especially at that age. To have it end like that, to have it be a part of all of the survivor’s lives now, it’s just an incredibly difficult thing.”

“It’s huge. You look at all the small towns across Saskatchewan, everyone knows everybody, everyone comes to the games. You look at the support the community has to make sure those teams survive. You’re impacted by some of those victims, whether you billeted them, served them at the restaurants, coached them. Everything is so interconnected there. It’s crazy. It’s a huge loss to the community,” said Jets forward Adam Lowry, an alum of the Swift Current Broncos, who lost four players in a 1986 bus crash, including Brent Ruff, brother of long-time NHL head coach Lindy Ruff.

Moments of silence were held around NHL rinks on Saturday night, including in Winnipeg where players from the Jets and Chicago Blackhawks gathered at center ice while wearing jerseys with BRONCOS on the backs.

Sylvie Kellington, a resident of Humboldt, started a GoFundMe page on Friday night to support the families of the victims and the players and staff who were injured as a result of the crash. Support quickly poured in and as of Saturday night there has been close to $3 million given, which includes donations from the Blackhawks, Jets, Los Angeles Kings and Montreal Canadiens, among others.

With files from Scott Billeck and the AP

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Erik Karlsson picks up puck after potential last home game as a Senator (video)

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If Monday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets was the last time Erik Karlsson will suit up for the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre, he’ll have something to remember the occasion.

Jets forward Adam Lowry shot the puck into the empty net at the end of the game in a 6-5 loss for the Senators. After the final buzzer, Karlsson skated over to the net, fished the puck out of it, and put it into his hockey pants, perhaps foreshadowing an end of an era in Canada’s capital for the two-time Norris Trophy winner.

Karlsson’s future has been the focus of intense speculation for much of the season, and the thought is he will depart Ottawa at some point this offseason after a deal at the trade deadline didn’t come to fruition.

The 27-year-old has one year remaining on his contract.

Karlsson had three assists in the game, eclipsing the 60-point mark for the fifth straight season.


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

Fists fly in Winnipeg: Wheeler and Chiarot exchange pleasantries in practice altercation

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WINNIPEG — The gloves came off at Winnipeg Jets practice on Saturday.

A small scuffle that involved a couple of Jets players ensued after a point shot was taken by Blake Wheeler during a drill. That melee turned into fists being tossed between Wheeler and Jets defensemen Ben Chiarot, with Wheeler being sent to the dressing room by coach Paul Maurice after the fight broke up.

“It’s just boys being boys,” said Chiarot, who had a small cut on his nose after practice. “Tempers get up. Intensity in practice is always a good thing and that’s something we’re trying to bring here before the playoffs. I look at it as a good thing.”

Wheeler didn’t speak to the media following being sent off. He appeared to be sporting a welt over his left eye and tossed his helmet into the Jets bench before heading down the tunnel.

The Jets own a 10-point stranglehold on the second seed in the Central Division and appear set for their first playoff appearance in three seasons.

Winnipeg notched its 100th point of the season on Friday in a 3-2 overtime win against the Anaheim Ducks.

Mark Scheifele, who was in the vicinity, said he was just an innocent bystander in the ordeal.

“I didn’t do anything,” he said. “I was just sitting in the slot, I don’t know if I had anything (to do with it.)”

Paul Maurice watched the fracas from center ice but didn’t say anything until Wheeler’s glove’s game off, at which point he yelled for the pair to stop.

“You’d like a few more of those during the year if you could,” Maurice said after practice.

When pressed as to why, Maurice spoke of keeping the intensity level high throughout the season.

“Our theory in how we practice is really short, as fast as we can, a full-contact sport,” Maurice said. “In the games, somebody gets an elbow up, somebody gets a piece of someone that happens and occasionally in practice that’s going to happen. It’s all good.”

Jets forward Adam Lowry said players were already moved on to the joking phase following the altercation.

“They might be mad at each other for 10 minutes, but you don’t expect a grudge to be held too long,” Lowry said. “I’m sure (by Sunday), they’ll be laughing about it.”

Asked if there would be any repercussions for either player, Maurice shared a joke.

“There will be no family meeting tomorrow,” he said. 


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