Connor Hellebuyck has laid his cards out on the table. After the Jets were eliminated by the Vegas Golden Knights in five games, and frankly embarrassed by their performance in an elimination game, the Jets’ starting goaltender seemed to hint that either the team build itself into a contender or he’s gone. When asked about the future he noted, “That’s hard to answer. It’s a lot to think about. We are only two days removed.”
With one year remaining on his current contract, there were already questions about what the Jets would do with Hellebuyck. Would they try to re-sign him? Would they trade him and ensure he doesn’t walk away as an unrestricted free agent next summer? Would they let the season play its course and then try to move him at the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline?
The latter two options now seem the most likely.
What Hellebuyck Said to Media
The former Vezina-winning netminder stated that he isn’t interested in a rebuild situation. Noting he had more fun in five playoff games than the entire season, he wants to play with a contender and his priority is to win a Stanley Cup. He feels he’s running out of time to do that and while he didn’t say specifically that he wanted out of Winnipeg, the hint seemed to be that if the Jets were planning on tearing it down — which there are rumors they might do to change the troubled culture in their locker room — he wouldn’t be part of that process.
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Hellebuyck has one year left on his contract. If the Jets don’t trade him, he could simply choose to test free agency in a year and go where he’s got the best chance to win. According to Murat Ates of The Athletic, “He says he hasn’t spoken to the Jets about an extension, that he hasn’t thought about it, and he’ll listen to GM Kevin Cheveldayoff when they speak.” He said he just wants to win a Cup. “I don’t know what the future of this team looks like. I don’t know what their plans are. I don’t know if I’m in it.”
Where Could Hellebuyck Wind Up?
Any Stanley Cup contender should be calling the Jets and seeing what it would take to get them to talk about a Hellebuyck trade. He legitimately solves any questions a team might have in goal and turns a playoff team into a legitimate playoff contender. He turns a contender into a favorite.
There are many teams that he might make sense for, but here are four:
Detroit Red Wings Want Better Goaltending
The Detroit Red Wings have already said they are looking to improve their situation in goal. While they aren’t a Stanley Cup contender, it’s clear Steve Yzerman is trying to build a winner there and they are past the point of rebuilding.
As per Kevin Allen of Detroit Hockey Now, Yzerman asked, “Are our best options within, including…young guys? Or is it looking at other options?” He answered his own question when he said, “Right now, looking around the league, every team is looking to improve in one area, whether it be their starter or backup.”
Penguins Might Look to Replace Jarry
The Pittsburgh Penguins might be prepared to move on from Tristan Jarry, which would put them in the market for a netminder. Again, the Penguins aren’t Stanley Cup favorites, but their window to win is closing and they will be going for it under new management. When the management situation gets sorted out, is there a better way to tell players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang that you’re doing what you can to help them win while there’s still a chance?
Senators Could Make Splash Under New Ownership
The Ottawa Senators are letting Cam Talbot test free agency and they could be in the market for a goalie. Wouldn’t it be something if the Sens (under new ownership) grabbed Hellebuyck in a blockbuster trade and that whole thing was documented by Ryan Reynolds? Talk about riveting programming.
The Senators thought this was going to be their season to make the playoffs and go on a bit of a run. They were disappointed when that didn’t happen. Is Hellebuyck the kind of player that puts them over the top?
Golden Knights Ran With Five Different Goalies
What about in Vegas where the Golden Knights went through five different goaltenders this past season? Laurent Brossoit is playing quite well for the team, but he’s a UFA at the end of the season, as are three of the other four goaltenders the Golden Knights currently have on their roster.
The Golden Knights are in on every big move in the NHL. One would imagine the salary cap would be an issue, but it seems they find a way around that every season.