Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has a lot on his plate, but he handled a pretty big piece of the puzzle Thursday by signing goalie Connor Hellebuyck to a six-year contract worth $37 million.
The deal for the Vezina Trophy runner-up packs an annual cap hit of $6.167 million, which allows the Jets room to move on some other contracts.
Consider that Cheveldayoff has Mark Scheifele inked to an eight-year deal with an average annual value of $6.125 million and you start to see a trend in cap management.
The Jets have two serious components locked up through the 2023-2024 season for $12.892 million. That’s not bad. Not bad at all.
There are other things on the agenda for the general manager, like signing Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor to contracts in the near future. Tyler Myers and Blake Wheeler will be UFAs following the 2018-2019 season. And there’s a small army of RFAs in the wings, like Jacob Trouba, Brandon Tanev and Josh Morrissey.
“We’ve got a group of guys that have a lot of prove,” Cheveldayoff said. “They’re young, they’re hungry. There’s a good core of veterans that want to lead. There’s a good core of middle players that are drivers and there’s really, really good young players that gain some valuable experience. And then we even got a real good, young group of players that are really pushing to keep on pushing the group above them.”
Four Jets – Trouba, Tanev, Marko Dano, and Adam Lowry – have elected salary arbitration. Their cases will be wrapped by the end of July, all part of a higher-than-usual number of arbitration filings this year.
Hellebuyck, meanwhile, becomes the sixth highest-paid goalie in the NHL. He was fifth among starters last season in save percentage and made 64 starts, with single-season franchise records set for wins, shutouts and save percentage. He was also extremely impressive in the post-season for the Jets, helping them reach the Western Conference Final.
Now in Winnipeg, the attention turns to the rest of the process. Arbitration is next on the agenda and you can expect more smart moves from Cheveldayoff, whose work at solidifying the Jets as a contending club has really just begun.