There have been many questions surrounding the future of who will be between the pipes for the Winnipeg Jets in the long-term. While Ondrej Pavelec is locked in for another three years for $3.9 million per year, there has been talk about the Czech Republic Olympian could be bought out at the end of the season. Al Montoya is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and he will ask for more than the $600,000 per season, he is currently making for the Jets.
It is unlikely that both veteran goalies will leave town next season, it doesn’t mean the Jets don’t have issues with their goaltending. Pavelec has seen the majority of time in the crease for the Jets, but his numbers range from mediocre at best, to horrid at worst. Over the last three seasons, Pavelec has recored the second worst save percentage in the NHL.
Worst Save % last 3 seasons (min 75 starts) Brodeur .904 Pavelec .905 Emery .905 Bryzgalov .906 Mason .906
— Gord Miller (@GMillerTSN) March 12, 2014
While Pavelec is known to make some spectacular saves, he is extremely inconsistent and relies far too much on his athletic ability. He isn’t very good at reading the play and tracking the puck, which leads him to be out of position far too often. Pavelec has been healthy for the most part during his Jets tenure, but a lower body injury that has sidelined him for the last three games, leaves one to wonder if he is starting to wear down. Since the franchise arrived from Atlanta in 2011, Pavelec has appeared in 81.1% of the games that the Jets have played. (164 out of 202 games) One wonders if the 26-year-old netminder has reached his peak with the Jets.
Montoya Playing For Contract
Al Montoya has been a solid backup goalie for the Jets this season, posting a .921 save percentage this season. But when Pavelec went down to injury, Montoya had the chance to grab the starting role by the horns. He’s been OK at best. In his last five games, Montoya has posted a .896 save percentage with the team winning just two out of those five games. Montoya has been quiet in terms of his future, saying his focus is with the Jets playoff push. But there will be teams interested in the Chicago native when July 1 rolls around. Especially teams that are in need of a solid veteran goalie.
Chance For Hutchinson
Michael Hutchinson has been a bright spot in the Jets organization this season. The Barrie, Ontario native is enjoying a terrific season with the Jets AHL affiliate, the St. John’s IceCaps. The former Boston Bruins draft pick has recorded a .923 save percentage this season, and is a major reason why the IceCaps are in second place in the Atlantic Division, six points behind the Manchester Monarchs. During a recent nine game winning streak, Hutchinson was between the pipes for eight of those games, recording a .944 save percentage and one shutout. When Pavelec’s injury hit, Hutchinson was recalled by the big club. While not seeing any action so far, Hutchinson’s play in the AHL made a statement to the organization that he is part of the future plan. If Hutchinson and the IceCaps have a solid playoff run, he’ll get a very long look at training camp next fall.
Pasquale’s Future In Doubt
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) February 14, 2013
Eddie Pasquale was seen by some as the goalie of the future. But a season-ending hip injury and subsequent surgery suffered in February has shelved Pasquale for the rest of the season. Hip injuries can be devastating for goalies because they can reduce flexibility and mobility in the crease. Before the injury, Pasquale was having a fine season with the IceCaps, posting a .920 save percentage and one shutout. The big question will be, can Pasquale fully heal from this injury? The answer remains in doubt, which doesn’t bode well for the Saginaw Spirit keeper.
Jussi Olkinoura could be the next of a very long line of good Finnish goalies. The 23-year-old Helsinki native is getting his chance to prove himself with the IceCaps, after a strong college career with the University of Denver. Olkinoura was signed by the Jets as a free agent last April, posted .925 save percentage and five shutouts during his tenure with the Pioneers, and is hoping to translate his success in the NCAA into the pros. So far with the IceCaps Olkinoura has won five out of his nine starts, posting a .893 save percentage and one shutout. Olkinoura is considered to be a project by the organization, but with the success of Finnish goalies such as Tuukka Rask, Kari Lehtonen and Pekka Rinne are having in the NHL, don’t count out Olkinoura as the goalie of the future.
High On Hellebuyck
Congrats to Connor Hellebuyck on being named 1 of 5 finalists for the 2014 Mike Richter Award for the most outstanding NCAA goaltender! — Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) March 19, 2014
Connor Hellebuyck is making some noise in the NCAA this season. The 20-year-old UMass Lowell netminder led the River Hawks to the Hockey East championship, thanks to a 4-0 shutout over New Hampshire. During the Hockey East tournament, Hellebuyck had a shutout streak that lasted 142:14 seconds, which included back-to-back shutouts in the semifinal and final. The fifth round pick of the 2012 entry draft, led the NCAA with a 1.87 goals against average and a .938 save percentage this season. The River Hawks are now one win away from advancing to the Frozen Four in Philadelphia in two weeks time. Hellebuyck’s play will be closely watched by Jets management, as they determine who is the goalie of the future.
High Expectations For Comrie
— Illegal Curve Hockey (@IllegalCurve) June 30, 2013
Eric Comrie has battled back from hip surgery, and is enjoying an excellent season with the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League. The second round pick of the 2013 entry draft, has posted a 2.57 goals against average to go with a .925 save percentage and four shutouts. Currently involved in a first round playoff series against the Kelowna Rockets, Comrie will most likely stay with the Americans next season, with an opportunity to participate at the World Junior Hockey Championships next Christmas. Comrie is at least three to four years away from joining the Jets on a permanent basis, but his upside and potential are limitless.
You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973
I share season tickets for the Winnipeg Jets since their return to the Manitoba capital in 2011. I have written about the Jets since 2011 on various sites.