Hellebuyck Avoids Arbitration, Signs With Jets
WINNIPEG, MB. — The man the Winnipeg Jets and many of their fans have blamed for the Jets’ ninth-place finish last season, has avoided arbitration and sign a one-year deal with Winnipeg.
Connor Hellebuyck, the big 6-foot-4, 210-pound netminder from Commerce, Mich., agreed to a one-year, $2.25 million deal with the Jets on Monday.
Hellebuyck, 24, was originally drafted by the Jets in the fifth round (130th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft out of U-Mass Lowell.
Last season, the Jets brass wanted Hellebuyck to be the team’s No. 1 goaltender right from the start of training camp. He got the job and finished the year playing in 56 games, going 26-19-4 with a 2.89 goals against average and a .907 save percentage. He also had four shutouts.
According to the Jets, Hellebuyck went 12-3-1 with a 2.09 goals-against average and .937 save percentage against Central Division opponents. He played the most games of any goaltender age 23 or younger in the NHL last season and now, in 82 games during his NHL career, Hellebuyck has a 39-30-5 record with a 2.71 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.
While most Jets insiders believe veteran Steve Mason, the Jets big free-agent signing this year, is going to be give the starting job, simply because he’s being paid $8.2 million over the next two years, Mason’s numbers in Philadelphia last season were not a whole lot better than Hellebuyck’s.
Mason, 29, played in 58 games with the Flyers last year and had a record of 27-21-8 with a 2.66 goals against average and .908 save percentage. Hellebuyck played on a team that was ninth in the West while Mason played on a team that was 11th in the East.
Although he’s making almost twice the money, it’s unlikely he’s twice the goaltender.
For his part, Hellebuyck said yesterday that he was excited about returning to Winnipeg.
“Yeah, I’m pretty excited for it,” he said. “I’m happy to be with the Winnipeg organization. I think the team is really good and has a bright future. I’m excited to be a part of that future.”
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, as always, won’t tip his hand but believes that with both Mason and Hellebuyck, the Jets netminding situation is solid for at least the 2017-18 season.
—Scott Taylor, MyToba Sports
Photo – James Carey Lauder, MyToba Sports