For some teams free Agency begins July 1, and in a sense it ends July 1. It is common place for most of the high-end Free Agents to sign on the first day. July 1 has passed and the Jets did not sign a backup goalie. And as of now, the goalie market is barren.
This is the current list of NHL free agents via Cap Geek.
|Curry, John "||G||30||MIN||2||80||1||0||0||0||3.00||.930|
|Giguere, J. "||G||37||COL||22||1,212||11||6||1||2||2.62||.913|
|Thomas, Tim "||G||40||DAL||40||2,299||16||20||3||0||2.87||.909|
|Bryzgalov, Ilya "||G||34||MIN||20||1,135||5||8||5||1||3.01||.908|
|Brodeur, Martin "||G||42||NJD||39||2,297||19||14||6||3||2.51||.901|
|Knapp, Connor "||G||24||BUF||2||77||0||0||1||0||3.12||.875|
|Heeter, Cal "||G||25||PHI||1||64||0||0||1||0||4.69||.868|
|Nilstorp, C. "||G||30||DAL||1||39||0||0||0||0||4.62||.824|
|Khabibulin, N. "||G||41||CHI||4||168||1||0||1||0||5.00||.811|
|Lawson, Nathan "||G||30||OTT||1||12||0||0||0||0||10.00||.800|
There are only four players who logged regular NHL minutes last year and the youngest of that quartet is 34 year old.
In Winnipeg Michael Hutchinson has signed a contract with the Winnipeg Jets, but it is a two-way deal. This leaves Ondrej Pavelec as the only goalie that is guaranteed to be wearing a Jets sweater next season. Still, Winnipeg Jets General Manager has suggested their will be competition for the Winnipeg Jets' backup spot.
The Jets already have another goalie. They have Michael Hutchinson and he has earned a shot. This past season Hutchinson performed at a elite level in three different leagues. Fans are well aware that he led the Winnipeg Jets AHL affiliate the St. John's IceCaps to a Calder Cup berth, but before that he dominated the ECHL winning two goalie of the week awards with a 2.08 goals against average and .921 save percentage arcross 28 games. He also played three games for the Jets last year and posted a 2-1 record, .943 SV% and a 1.64 GAA. Sure it’s a small sample size but after that stint with the club, Hutchinson went on a tremendous playoff run with the club.
The 24 year old Barrie Ontario native came out of nowhere in the eyes of many Jets fans. Hutchinson was drafted 77th overall at the 2008 draft. Hutchinson split time between the Reading Royals of the ECHL and the Providence Bruins of the AHL in his first few pro years. Then, last off season Hutchinson signed with the Jets.
Hutchinson started off this past year in the ECHL with the Ontario Reign and he won games! Hutch opened the ECHL season with a 22-4-2 record. After his stint with the Regin, Hutchinson was then called up by the IceCaps and continued to impress fans and Jets brass alike. He posted a 17-5-1 record to close out the regular season.
Hutchinson was officially on the radar. He came from a depth signing to someone carrying the IcecCaps on their quest for the playoffs. Near the end of the Jets regular season, Hutchinson was called up in place for Injured Al Montoya. Hutchinson impressed again, gaining his first two NHL wins in a brief three game stint.
Hutchinson has raised his game and done everything he can at the minor pro level. So why not give Hutchinson a shot? The Jets could be leaning in that direction. The fact that no competing goalie has been signed by the Jets that could be an indication that he is a front runner, despite Chevy's stated "competition".
Hutchinson is 24 years old, though he is still young, he is at the age where goalies start to peak. He is trending upwards and his consistent solid play could transition well into the NHL. Looking around the league, rolling with Hutch at backup would hardly be a radical move. Look at what the St Louis Blues did with their goalie situation.
The Blues had the opportunity to re-sign there highly touted trade deadline acquisition Ryan Miller. Instead of bringing Miller back, the Blues re-signed backup Brian Elliott and called up 23-year-old rising star Jake Allen to begin to learn the ropes. This may seem like an odd move. Why not lock up a star goalie and win in the near future? Part of it is money, but there is also a risk / reward factor in play.
Young goalies need to experience the NHL and be provided with an opportunity. The Blues made the same kind of move that the Jets will eventually have to make. The Jets have Eric Comrie, Connor Hellebuyck, Jason Kasdorf, Juho Olkinuora and Michael Hutchinson in the system. Comrie, Hellebuyck and Hutchinson have legit NHL potential. Eventually they will be ready and the Jets are going to have to throw them it the fire, even if there is a safer, more known option.
Prospects can't be coddled forever. Sooner or later one of these goalies are going to be thrown in to the fire and will be forced to sink or swim. That time is right now for Hutchinson. Maybe he starts as a backup. Maybe his play earns him more, but there isn't much more for him to accomplish in other leagues. He is entering his prime years. The Jets need to let him dip his foot in to the pro game.
Of course, the Jets could explore other options for the second goalie position. They could try to for someone like Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer, Ottawa Senators goalie Robin Lehner, or maybe even Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack who has recently taken a backseat to newcomer Ryan Miller. These other options are perhaps "safer" moves for the Jets, except the Jets are not in a " win now" mode. They so they don’t have to go for a safer option.
If the Jets do go the safer route and give Hutch an extra season with the IceCaps it won’t hurt him, but it will waste what could have been a year of learning. Until they team is ready to "win now", "draft and develop" has to be at the forefront and giving Hutch NHL ice is the next step of his development. Giving Hutchinson a shot in the NHL would be following the plan.
Competition of no, Hutchinson will definitely get his chance to shine at training camp; hopefully he can carry over his momentum from his latest Calder Cup playoff run to the NHL.
ICYMI, you can read here about how Hutch compares to other goalies in the Jets system.
Where do you think Hutch will start the 2014 NHL season?