Lost in the hoopla of the five year contract extension for Dustin Byfuglien was something coach Maurice said at the end of his media availability yesterday when asked about the status of Ondrej Pavelec.
The Jets bench boss still wouldn’t give an exact timeline but did indicate “He is getting closer. I still cannot give you a day but he is working full. So I would say he is fairly close.” Ondrej Pavelec has been out since November 21, 2015 (31 games) but has been a more active participant in practices and has been traveling with the team.
This leaves the Jets with an obvious dilemma. Once Pavelec is moved off the IR and back onto the regular roster what are they going to do about their goalie situation? Adding Pavelec to the mix that already contains Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson will make for quite a full goalie contingent.
In theory the Jets could send one of Anthony Peluso, Adam Pardy or Paul Postma to the Moose to keep their roster at 23 but it seems highly unlikely the bench boss will opt to keep three goalies with the team.
Connor Hellebuyck is the rookie sensation who played 20 of 22 games for the Jets and 24 games overall. In that time he has a 12-10-1 record with a .920 save % and a 2.31 GAA. He has just one win in his last five games (including getting pulled against the Hurricanes).
Michael Hutchinson was last year’s favourite but was largely forgotten with the emergence of Connor Hellebuyck, having played just seven games since Pavelec went down. In 19 games with Winnipeg this season he has a 6-10-1 record including a .907 save % and a 2.86 GAA.
Ondrej Pavelec hasn’t played a meaningful game since November 21 and there was some question as to whether he would go on a conditioning stint for a game with the Manitoba Moose. Of course that would only temporarily delay the inevitable question as to what to do with three goalies. Pavelec this season has a 5-6-0 record with a 906 save % and a 2.82 GAA.
Only Connor Hellebuyck can be sent down to the Moose without exposing him to waivers. The question that fans have to ask themselves is does their goalie of the future get his best opportunity with the Winnipeg Jets or Manitoba Moose? If the answer is the former then the goalie trio continues and requires resolution. If it is the former then it solves this problem rather neatly for coach Maurice and GM Cheveldayoff.
Michael Hutchinson was signed by the Jets back in the summer of 2013 and was assigned to the ECHL affiliate which, at the time, was the Ontario Reign. Easy to forget that he worked his way up from the ECHL to the AHL and ultimately ended the 2013-14 season playing in the NHL for Winnipeg. He spent most of last season platooning with Ondrej Pavelec. Has been largely forgotten this year by fans since Connor Hellebuyck arrived on scene. He will be an RFA at the end of this season. Of course if he is sent down and assuming he clears waivers one has to wonder what impact that has on the development of Eric Comrie with the Moose who has assumed the mantle of starter.
Lastly, we are left with the Jets starter since the Thrashers days Ondrej Pavelec. He has a cap hit for this year at 3.9 million and next year at 3.9 million. He will be a UFA in 2017-18. His numbers this season haven’t been what we saw last season as they dropped back to around his career average.
What will be done?
While the Jets bench boss won’t give us an exact timeline as to when to expect Ondrej Pavelec to be taken off the IR it seems reasonable that “fairly close” will be in the next week or two. (Originally we were told Pavelec’s return should be end of January/beginning of February). Might we see a trade or should we expect the Jets to simply send someone down to the AHL possibly exposing them to waivers (or not in the case of Connor Hellebuyck)?
Stay tuned to @illegalcurve to find out what the Winnipeg Jets will do. Or sound off and let us know what you think should be done!