Michael Hutchinson (Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images)
The Jets have signed Michael Hutchinson to a two-year deal and it could mean Winnipeg is preparing to use a three-goalie system again in 2016-17. Last season, the Jets split starts three ways between Hutchinson, Connor Hellebuyck and Ondrej Pavelec.
For Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s, it appears the more netminders his team has to work with, the merrier.
The Jets announced Tuesday that they have signed Michael Hutchinson, 26, to a two-year deal worth $1.15 million per season. The contract comes as Hutchinson, who posted a 9-15-3 record, 2.84 goals against average and .907 save percentage in 2015-16, was set to become a restricted free agent. And though it signals the Jets getting another one of their assets under wraps, it doesn’t necessarily make a crowded crease any less so.
During the 2015-16 season, the Jets split their crease three ways. Ondrej Pavelec, 28, started 31 games, Connor Hellebuyck, 23, started 26 games and Hutchinson started the remaining 25 games. Whether Jets fans like it or not, it appears a similar three-headed monster will be between the pipes this coming season.
One of the biggest issues is that the trio was below average, ranking 23rd with a .921 5-on-5 SP. And the signing of Hutchinson is somewhat bizarre in that of the three, he turned in the worst performance. After bursting onto the scene in 2014-15 with a .924 SP at 5-on-5 in 2014-15, Hutchinson regressed to a .906 5-on-5 SP this past season. Pavelec ranked second with a .920 5-on-5 SP and Hellebuyck was the top netminder with a .941 5-on-5 SP.
It’s not like the Jets intend to keep all three goaltenders in the long-term, though. Pavelec is certainly overpaid — he’ll earn $3.9 million in 2016-17, but it’s the final year of his five-year deal — for what he has produced and Hutchinson’s contract will be up again following the 2017-18 campaign. That said, one reason to keep all three could be that it doesn’t exactly prove costly to do so.
In fact, with Pavelec, Hutchinson and Hellebuyck all in the NHL, Winnipeg’s combined cap hit in goal would only be $5.717 million. Considering that’s the cost of some starting goaltenders alone, it’s not as if the Jets are in dire need of moving out any of the three netminders. That’s a good thing in the case of injury, though one could argue that Eric Comrie would be a suitable injury replacement for all but Hellebuyck, who is pegged as the Jets goaltender of the future.
There’s a slight chance this could be a sign of imminent movement, however. Pavelec has been on the table for the past few seasons with Winnipeg unable to do so. Again, while it’s not like Pavelec necessarily prevents the Jets from doing anything, the extra $3.9 million in cap space would be quite the asset to a budget team like Winnipeg. The Jets have new contracts to sign with RFAs Mark Scheifele, Adam Lowry, Joel Armia, J.C. Lipon and Brandon Tanev, as well as blueliners Jacob Trouba, Brenden Kichton and Julian Melchiori. A few of those, namely Scheifele and Trouba, aren’t going to come cheap.
For the time being, though, it appears the Jets will continue will a combination of Hellebuyck, Hutchinson and Pavelec. And unless there’s movement before the season begins, all three will likely split starts once again in 2016-17, though Winnipeg faithful will hope to much better results.
(All advanced statistics via Puckalytics)