Oilers Should Swing for Fences and Target Jets’ Hellebuyck

With only two teams remaining in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, many organizations and fan bases have shifted their focus to the offseason. Aside from the occasional bottom feeders who are looking to bottom out in hopes of adding elite talent through the draft, teams are looking to improve each and every summer, whether it be through free agency or trades.

Related: 3 Edmonton Oilers Offseason Predictions

The Edmonton Oilers, after giving the potential Stanley Cup-winning Vegas Golden Knights a good battle in the second round, will be looking to do the same. While they are believed to be looking at options to improve their blue line, some are hoping they target a netminder to help solidify things in the crease. Of course, doing this is easier said than done, as moving out Jack Campbell’s contract would be the only logical way to make it happen. If Ken Holland were somehow able to do that, however, there is one particularly interesting option available.

Jets Could Be Moving Hellebuyck

One team who could be going through a ton of change this offseason is the Winnipeg Jets. After some major struggles over the second half of the season, paired with a disappointing effort in the playoffs, it is believed that they are strongly considering moving several of their top players entering the final year of their contracts.

Connor Hellebuyck Winnipeg Jets
Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

One of those options is Connor Hellebuyck, who has been one of the game’s elite goaltenders for several seasons. The 30-year-old has one year remaining on a contract that carries a cap hit of $6.17 million and is coming off a season in which he finished as a Vezina Trophy finalist for the third time in his career.

Given that he has been the Jets’ cornerstone for some time, he won’t come cheap. For the Oilers, any potential of acquiring him would likely have to include one or two of their top prospects in Dylan Holloway, Philip Broberg, and Xavier Bourgault. Including a first-round pick at this year’s draft is off the table given that the Oilers traded away that pick when acquiring Mattias Ekholm in March.

As pricey as that may already seem, two of the players listed above would still likely be turned away by the Jets. After all, elite goaltenders don’t grow on trees, and the Jets are sure to have plenty of offers coming their way for Hellebuyck’s services. That said, perhaps a first-round pick in 2024, paired with a reclamation project in Kailer Yamamoto (which also helps balance things a bit from a cap perspective) gets them thinking.

Hellebuyck is the Best Option Available

As steep as the price listed above may seem to Oilers fans, it is important to remember that this team’s contending window could be closing. With Leon Draisaitl only having two more seasons on his deal, and Connor McDavid with three, things could look drastically different for this organization depending on the decisions those two make. If they were to move on, the players above would just be coming into their own at the NHL level.

Connor Hellebuyck Winnipeg Jets
Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Hellebuyck, on the other hand, is currently at his peak. On a Jets team that has had some questionable defence throughout his career, he has put together a career save percentage of .916. On a stronger all-around team like the Oilers, those numbers would likely get even better. Many would agree that if Hellebuyck or a goalie of his skill level were on the Oilers this season, it would be them competing versus the Florida Panthers in the Cup Final instead of the Golden Knights.

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Now, it is important to note that Hellebuyck isn’t the only goalie expected to be available this offseason. John Gibson has reportedly requested a trade from the Anaheim Ducks, and the Philadelphia Flyers are said to be taking calls on Carter Hart.

As far as Gibson is concerned, this is a goalie the Oilers should be leery of. While he was considered one of the game’s better goaltenders early in his career, his play has been lackluster for four straight seasons. Some of that can be attributed to a weak roster playing in front of him, but it is possible that despite only being 29 his best days are behind him.

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Hart is the more intriguing of the two and carries a reasonable $3.98 million cap hit for one more year. The 24-year-old came into the NHL with plenty of hype but has been somewhat disappointing through his first five seasons. Like Gibson, plenty of that is due to the team in front of him, but he hasn’t exactly proven himself as a top-tier goaltender to this point.

Carter Hart Philadelphia Flyers
Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With Hart, there is the potential that he could form an excellent young tandem with Stuart Skinner, which is why many Oilers fans are hoping he is a target. That said, whether he can be relied upon consistently is unknown, which makes him a risky addition. If Skinner were to falter in the playoffs again, it would be a gamble to hope that Hart can pick up the slack.

That is what makes Hellebuyck so intriguing. He has proven time and time again that he can be relied upon in all situations, and he could be given a lesser workload than seasons past given what Skinner showed he could do throughout the regular season. His addition would make the Oilers arguably the biggest Cup contender entering the 2023-24 season, giving both McDavid and Draisaitl all they could ask for in terms of achieving their ultimate goal. There is plenty of risk involved given Hellebuyck’s contract status and the pieces that would need to be given up, but if Holland wants to swing for the fences, this should be his main target.

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