Since the franchise arrived from Atlanta in 2011, the Winnipeg Jets have been somewhat shy on the trade front. General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff hasn’t made the big splash on the trade front some fans have hoped for. In fact, Chevy had not made a player for player trade since he became general manager. That changed on Sunday.
The Jets acquired goalie Peter Budaj and right winger Patrick Holland from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for left winger Eric Tangradi. This trade is straight up as no salary was retained by either club.
There is no doubt that the Jets have had issues with the goalie position. Ondrej Pavelec’s struggles are well documented and the numbers have shown decline the last three seasons. Cheveldayoff did proclaim in the offseason that Pavelec was the number one goalie, showing faith in the Czech netminder, despite Pavelec’s play.
Ondrej Pavelec was 33rd in even-strength save percentage among goalies with 30+ starts. So, uh, good luck next season, Winnipeg.
— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) April 16, 2014
The Jets were hoping that Michael Hutchinson would become the backup after a strong season with St. John’s of the AHL. But Hutchinson struggled in the preseason, recording a .867 save percentage in four games. While that is a small sample size, it was clear that Hutchinson didn’t have the confidence of the coaching staff so the Jets looked elsewhere for a goalie.
Can Budaj Push Pavelec?
Peter Budaj is entering his 10th season in the NHL with the Jets being his third team. The Slovakian keeper also represented his country at the 2006 and 2014 Olympics. Budaj started his NHL career with the Colorado Avalanche in the 2005-06 season. He signed with Montreal as a free agent in 2011, where he served as Carey Price’s backup for the last three seasons.
Budaj does have one year left on his contract that will pay him $1.4 million this season
#NHLJets goaltender Peter Budaj has one year at $1.4M left on a two-year deal. He's an unrestricted free agent this summer.
— 𝗗𝗮𝗿𝗿𝗶𝗻 𝗕𝗮𝘂𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗴 (@DarrinBauming) October 5, 2014
Budaj does bring experience and knows how to deal with a hockey mad market. However, Budaj’s number aren’t great. His career save percentage is lower than Pavelec. While his numbers over the last three season have been better, the sample size is quite small. It was clear that the Canadiens had more faith in Dustin Tokarski going forward so Budaj was made expendable.
Going Dutch For Holland
Patrick Holland spent the majority of the 2013-14 season with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL, where he recorded 6 goals and 11 assists in 57 games for the Bulldogs. The Lethbridge, Alberta native was called up to Montreal for a short stint, where he appeared in five games. Holland will report to St. John’s to start the season.
The writing was on the wall for Tangradi when the Jets put him on waivers earlier this week. Tangradi was in a battle for a role on the fourth line, but was outplayed in the preseason by Matt Halischuk and rookie Adam Lowry.
A bunch of guys are ahead of him. He either needs to get a fresh start with another team…or get back to a game where he can play 18-20 minutes a night, and find that game. Head coach Paul Maurice told Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun. “Being here wasn’t going to make us better, it wasn’t going to make him better.”
While Tangradi did drive up possession numbers, leading the team in corsi percentage, management felt that Tangradi wasn’t producing enough. Tangradi will join Hamilton to start the season.
This will depend on how the Jets use Budaj. In the likely scenario that Pavelec falters, do the Jets give Budaj a fair shot? Al Montoya should have seen more time between the pipes last season, as he was solid when called upon. But Montoya felt he could be better used elsewhere, so he signed with the Florida Panthers in the offseason.
Budaj isn’t a saviour. In fact, he’s probably at the same level as Pavelec. Perhaps a change of scenery will do Budaj some good. But that’s not a guarantee.
If he can push Pavelec the Jets will be better off for it. If Budaj struggles this season, the Jets will let him without taking a huge hit in the wallet. The Jets still have over $7.7 million in cap space so they don’t need to dump contracts.
The Jets are still a long way from a playoff spot. The Central Division is extremely tough. So while this does fill a need, it won’t be close to enough to make anyone fear the Jets. More will be needed down the road.