High Flying in the True North

The Winnipeg Jets are a good team, when their goaltender Michael Hutchinson does not start.

Upon placing Ondrej Pavelec on injured reserve, the Winnipeg Jets called up starting goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, who was playing for a slumping AHL affiliate Manitoba Moose team. With the Moose, Hellebuyck posted an outstanding .927 save percentage, only to have a losing record of 2-7-1. When called upon, Jets’ backup goaltender Michael Hutchinson could not post his stellar 2014-15 numbers.

Connor Hellebuyck has always been a sharp goaltender throughout his career, without his save percentage ever going below .921. In 13 games, Hellebuyck has posted a 9-4-0 record. The rookie goalie has only allowed four goals past him twice, and has held a sharp .935 save percentage. He might very well be the Jets’ goalie of the future.

The Winnipeg Jets currently face a predicament as they approach the 2016 trade deadline. The Jets have unrestricted free agents Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd, as well as restricted free agent Jacob Trouba whose contracts will expire by the end of the 2015-16 season. The Jets should re-sign Andrew Ladd and budding star defenceman Jacob Trouba, and trade veteran defenceman Dustin Byfuglien. Which team will the Jets trade Dustin Byfuglien to?

Screenshot 2016-01-06 18.01.51

Elliotte Friedman of Rogers Sportsnet commented in 30 Thoughts that the ideal team for trading Dustin Byfuglien is the Florida Panthers. In the Marek vs. Wyshinski podcast, Jeff Marek and Greg Wyshinki commented that Erik Gudbranson and a pick (first/second) could be a possible value shipped to the Jets.

The return is perfect. The Panthers receive a top four defenceman ahead or behind of Aaron Ekblad, while the Jets receive a third-pairing defenceman behind Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers.

With the above potential trade, the Jets maintain a strong roster in acquiring a solid defenceman, Erik Gudbranson. Having a 23 year-old defenceman whose expiring $2.5M contract is better than having a veteran, 30 year-old defenceman with an expiring $5.2M contract who is seeking more than six million in a contract extension. Further, Gudbranson is a restricted free agent while Byfuglien is an unrestricted free agent. If Gudbranson does not re-sign with the Jets, Winnipeg will still receive value in compensation.

When Ondrej Pavelec returns from injury, does Pavelec automatically become the starting goaltender? Will Michael Hutchinson be packaged in a Byfuglien package? Having Hellebuyck and Pavelec as the Jets’ duo would be perfect.

If the Jets clinch a playoff spot in the toughest division of the National Hockey League, Paul Maurice will probably have the best team that he’s ever coached. As a quick, chippy team that isn’t afraid of throwing the body while backed up by solid goaltending, the Jets will be a dynamic threat to watch in 2016.

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