Winnipeg Jets Rumors: Connor Hellebuyck Close to One-Year Deal

The Winnipeg Jets are reportedly close to signing restricted free agent goaltender Connor Hellebuyck to avoid arbitration. 

The Winnipeg Jets have needed a reboot on how they deal with goaltenders for quite some time. Since coming to Winnipeg, arguably their best goaltender has been Ondrej Pavelec, who was average at best. After signing free agent Steve Mason, they aren’t done yet. Elliotte Friedman is reporting the Jets are expected to avoid arbitration with restricted free agent Connor Hellebuyck by signing him to a one-year deal.

This is most likely a “prove it” deal. Connor Hellebuyck has shown a lot of promise at times, but hasn’t been able to handle the starting role. After a promising rookie season in 2015-16, during which he had a .918 save percentage in 26 games, he took a step backwards in 2016-17. Hellebuyck started 53 games and appeared in 56 with a .907 save percentage.

His biggest drop off came at even strength. In Hellebuyck’s rookie season, he posted an impressive .937 save percentage at even strength. Among goalies with at least 25 appearances, only James Reimer had a better even strength save percentage than him. In 2016-17, 48 goaltenders met this criteria, with Hellebuyck finishing in 36th.

Mason is presumably coming in to form a goaltending tandem. On the other hand, they certainly didn’t pay Mason $4.1 million a year for two seasons to not at least get a shot at being the starter.

The Jets are hoping one of the two will emerge as the clear starter. Hellebuyck is only 24 years old, which is young for a goaltender. But already, he seems to have his back against the wall with the Jets. Winnipeg seems desperate to solve the goaltending problem that has plagued them for most of their existence. And at this point, who can blame them?

A fifth round draft pick of the Jets in the 2012 NHL Draft, it appears he can be a solid backup. For better or for worse, this season should say a lot about Hellebuyck.

UPDATE: Hellebuyck has signed his deal, according to the Jets. It’s a one-year deal worth $2.25 million.