On Monday, the Winnipeg Jets announced that they avoided arbitration with goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and signed him to a one year contract. Hellebuyck’s contract is worth $2.25 million, but perhaps, has more value to it than just the money; this contract serves as an opportunity for the 24-year-old goaltender to cement himself in the Jets lineup.
#NHLJets announce they have signed G Connor Hellebuyck to a one year deal worth $2.250,000.00
— Jim Toth (@JimTothSports) July 24, 2017
Connor Hellebuyck Needs to Prove Himself This Season
Last season, Hellebuyck played in 56 games, starting 53 of those. He posted a 26-19-4 record for a Winnipeg team that just came short of missing the postseason. Hellebuyck averaged a goals-against-average of 2.89 with a save percentage of .907, with four shutouts. The numbers are not bad at all, but the reason for Hellebuyck to enter training camp later this summer with a fresh new outlook is because of the Jets off-season moves.
Ondrej Pavelec was signed as a free agent by the New York Rangers, and to fill his absence, the Jets picked up free agent goaltender Steve Mason, whom after several seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, was informed he would be bought out. Plus, Michael Hutchinson still remains in the list of possible players, making the Jets crease number rise to three total. Mason was signed for two years, while Hutchinson, who signed an extension in 2016, expires at the conclusion of this upcoming season; the same as Hellebuyck. As of right now, it is looking like it will be a duel between Hellebuyck and Hutchinson for an extension with the Jets.
Steve Mason will most likely get the Jets starting goaltender spot, leaving Hellebuyck and Hutchinson to battle it out for the back-up role. Hellebuyck seems like a good candidate given his stats last season, but the new season calls for changes and who knows what can happen come training camp. In order for Hellebuyck to cement himself as the go-to number two, he has to have a stellar training camp with a competitive edge. At 24-years-old, Hellebuyck is still young and with a veteran like Mason in front of him he has time to progress and a great role model to look up to.
Hellebuyck’s Job to Lose
The National Hockey League’s 82-game season is a long one to be sure. This means that anything can happen; injuries, slumps, etc. These are the things that Hellebuyck needs to excel in. If he can stay healthy and maintain solid stats throughout the season, given he earns that number two spot, things will look good for him come the 2018 trade deadline.
At the deadline, the Jets will most likely move a goaltender in order to clear room for another skater. That being said, Hellebuyck has his work cut out for him. If he can make it through the season in good shape, he will be the one to earn the long-term deal, one that will lock him in for a future starting position.
Hellebuyck was drafted 130th overall by Winnipeg in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He has played a total of 82 games, with a career goals-against-average of 2.71 and a career save percentage of .910, and six total shutouts. He has a record of 39-30-5 as well.
Connor Hellebuyck turned aside over 1,400 shots last season!
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) July 25, 2017
Hellebuyck has a big season ahead of him this year. He is the predicted back-up goalie and has the experience needed for him to make the push for that starting spot. Anything can happen in training camp and of course during the season, so Hellebuyck needs to come fired up and ready to go if he wants to earn himself another long-term contract deal.