Jets All-Star reportedly unwilling to sign extension with team

jets all-star reportedly unwilling to sign extension with team

Connor Hellebuyck.

It’s shaping up to be a summer of potential big change in Winnipeg. With Pierre-Luc Dubois’ camp indicating that the center does not want to come back next season, one move of note could potentially be made sooner than later. Meanwhile, it appears Connor Hellebuyck could also be in play as Pierre LeBrun, Eric Duhatschek and Michael Russo of The Athletic report that “the ship has sailed” on the idea of the goaltender signing a new contract with the Jets.

The 30-year-old is entering the final season of a six-year, $37M contract signed back in 2018, one that has worked out quite nicely for Winnipeg. Hellebuyck has established himself as a premier netminder in the NHL in recent years but finds himself well below the top earners in the NHL: Carey Price ($10.5M), Sergei Bobrovsky ($10M) and Andrei Vasilevskiy ($9.5M). That’s expected to change next summer when he’s set to reach unrestricted free agency for the first time.

Hellebuyck led the NHL in games played this season for the fourth time out of the last six years. Despite the heavy workload, he posted his lowest goals-against average in five years (2.49) while finishing tied for fourth in save percentage (.920). On top of that, this was the first time since 2017-18 that he didn’t lead the NHL in shots faced and saves, finishing third and second, respectively, in those categories. Unfortunately for Winnipeg, he wasn’t as sharp in the playoffs, which helped play a role in their quick elimination at the hands of Vegas.

In his exit meeting with the media back in April, Hellebuyck indicated that his primary goal is to go after a Stanley Cup. Based on this report, the veteran has determined that it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to do so with Winnipeg, especially with the future of several core players in the air. On top of Dubois, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler are also one year away from unrestricted free agency, which means the turnover could come quickly.

There are a few routes that GM Kevin Cheveldayoff could elect to take here. One is to wait out the summer market and go with Hellebuyck between the pipes to start next season with an eye on moving him closer to the trade deadline. Such an approach isn’t without its risks, but if a few teams feel that a goalie of his caliber could be the final piece of the puzzle, there could be a strong bidding war for his services. At that point, Winnipeg might be more willing to retain salary to help facilitate a swap, which would only help his value. On the flip side, if they’re in contention, they could opt to keep him, but the odds of that happening at this point seem fairly low.

Alternatively, if the Jets opt to trade him now, they can either move him strictly as a rental or as part of an extend-and-trade agreement where Winnipeg could presumably resume a slightly better return in exchange for allowing the acquiring team to work a new deal out with him. While there will be some teams interested in both options, there could be others who might prefer Hellebuyck as a strict one-year rental to avoid paying top dollar for a netminder in 2024-25 and beyond. Similarly, other teams might not want to pay the top price in a swap unless it’s not a one-year rental. Either way, the interest is certain to be strong.

If Cheveldayoff does opt for a move this summer, it will need to come fairly soon. While the position-player market can sometimes drag out, that typically isn’t the case for goalies as by the time the second day of free agency rolls around, most teams have their goaltenders set while many teams won’t have enough cap room remaining to bring in a pricey contract. If that holds true, that would mean that the window for a Hellebuyck trade is within the next three weeks. With a Dubois swap also seeming likely to take place within that timeframe, the Jets are certainly going to be a team to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

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