The Winnipeg Jets have shored up their goaltending situation nice and early in their offseason, inking backup goaltender Laurent Brossoit to a one-year deal worth $1.225 million.
It’s a move that should serve the club well in 2019-20.
Brossoit is the League’s Best Backup
Less than a year ago, Brossoit’s future as an NHL-calibre goaltender was tenuous at best. The then-25-year-old was a recent castoff of the Edmonton Oilers organization and had just 28 big-league appearances — with mixed results — on his resume.
That $650,000 turned out to be some of the best the Jets have ever spent. Brossoit came into camp with a chip on his shoulder, and the backup battle between him and Eric Comrie — who briefly seemed heir apparent after Mason’s departure — that many thought would be one of the biggest storylines of last fall’s training camp turned to be much ado about nothing. Brossoit dazzled in his debut and easily won the job as Connor Hellebuyck’s number-two.
The strong, agile, and “big and boring” BC product was the Jets’ biggest surprise last season. He posted a 13-6-2 record with a 2.52 goals-against average, .925 save percentage, and one shutout in 21 appearances and 19 starts.
One of his biggest strengths is his ability to thrive in high-shot volume games, which backups disproportionately see due to making more starts on tail-ends of back-to-backs when their team in front of them is tired. In the 10 starts in which he faced 35-plus shots, he was 9-0-1.
The career-year meant there was no way the Jets were going to retain the restricted free agent for the bargain-basement price they paid last season. Despite doubling his salary, the new $1.225 million figure is not an overpayment, but rather represents fair market value.
The new deal is right in line with other higher-profile backup goalies such as the Nashville Predators’ Juuse Saros ($1.5 million) and the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Joonas Korpisalo ($900,000). It’s well below others, such as the Boston Bruins’ Jaroslav Halak ($2.75 million) and the San Jose Sharks’ Aaron Dell ($1.6 million).
Brossoit Needs More Starts Next Season
The goalie who earned the moniker “BrossWall” deserves more starts next season to show off his stuff.
The Jets need to do a better job of resting Hellebuyck — he’s made 126 starts and 130 appearances over the last two seasons. In 2018-19, he made 62 starts but took a big step back, stats-wise, due partly to fatigue. By the time the playoffs rolled around, he was gassed and the Jets made an early exit.
The only niggle in Brossoit’s near-perfect season was a late-season leg injury that prevented him from making starts down the stretch and forced Hellebuyck into the crease when he should have been resting for a Stanley Cup run. Brossoit has proven he’s not a downgrade from Hellebuyck, and the Jets should be confident with him between the pipes against any opponent.
We’ve seen in other markets how limiting a number one’s starts can work wonders for their postseason play. The Bruins, for example, carefully managed Tuukka Rask’s starts for the past two seasons — he made 54 in 2017-18 and just 45 in 2018-19.
Rask has played out-of-his-mind in the Bruins’ romp to the Stanley Cup Final, will likely win the Conn Smythe, and will quite possibly hoist his second Lord Stanley’s Mug, too. It’s because Halak shouldered some of the regular season load.
If the Jets want Hellebuyck to perform in a similar way, they can’t run him ragged like they have. Brossoit should be Hellebuyck’s “Halak” and be given at least 30 starts next season.
Brossoit Will be Playing for His Future
If Brossoit is similarly successful next season, he will not be a Jet come 2020-21. He will be a UFA next summer for the first time, and will likely attract suitors looking for a starter. That will give Brossoit plenty of motivation, which can only be good for the Jets.
“I’m definitely going to come in with a hell of a lot more confidence,” he said Saturdayin a conference call. “For a goalie, it takes a little bit longer sometimes to mature and find yourself in this league. There is a lot that goes into playing in this league, your nerves and mental state are a big part of that. I had to prove to myself that I can do what I normally do at this level with all the pressure that comes with it.”
“I can almost guarantee that I’m going to start and continue to build and move forward and continue to grow,” he continued.
The Jets have done well to shore up any crease concerns for next season far in advance of Free Agent Frenzy day.
While the Brossoit signing is an important one, having it out of the way means the Jets have one less thing to worry about as they move on to bigger issues, such as finding a trade partner for Jacob Trouba, signing Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, and figuring out how many of their long list of UFAs and RFAs they’ve got the dough to re-up.