In some unexpected news, the Winnipeg Jets have waived goaltender Ondrej Pavelec today, meaning Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson are the two goalies for the start of the season. While this could change, it is certainly a break from the norm for the Jets and True North Sports and Entertainment (TNSE).
While Pavelec is no longer with the team, his salary still counts for about $2 500 000 against the salary cap. While this is not a big deal because the Jets have around $8 000 000 in cap space, it definitely shows a change in the norm for TNSE. There have been opportunities in the past to bury a player who is not at the NHL level and instead the Jets have trotted out a sub-par NHL line-up instead of taking the cap hit.
In all, this is a good move for the Jets. For once they will hopefully not have the worst starter in the NHL and they will not be over-paying him for that job. Now for the AHL? It is one season and Pavelec has been good there for short stretches.
Following Ken Wiebe’s early tip on Pavelec, the word is now out on Winnipeg’s remaining training camp cuts.
Forwards Andrew Copp, Marko Dano, Chase De Leo, Anthony Peluso and Nic Petan, plus defencemen Brian Strait and Julian Melchiori have been reassigned to the Manitoba Moose. Peluso, Melchiori and Strait join Pavelec in needing to first clear waivers. It would be surprising to see any of them claimed.
On a Pavelec side note, TSN’s Gary Lawless has given his opinion on the idea of the 29-year-old failing to report:
lots asking if #nhljets Ondrej Pavelec will report to AHL affiliate Manitoba Moose. Would be very surprised if he didn't.— gary lawless (@garylawless) October 10, 2016
So what does this all mean? In net, the keys to the kingdom should be Connor Hellebuyck’s, provided he earns head coach Paul Maurice’s trust and consistently outperforms Michael Hutchinson. At the very least, fans are likely staring at a 1A/1B situation. Meanwhile, folks should keep an eye on how Pavelec impacts Eric Comrie’s playing time. It remains important for Winnipeg’s other much-hyped goaltending prospect to play big minutes with the Moose.
Josh Morrissey will be a staple on the Jets d-corps; the organization isn't keeping him up to sit in the press box. It'll be unsurprising to see Morrissey move up and down the pairings, but his presence should mean less Mark Stuart games played (unless PoMo decides to ice the disastrous duo of Chiarot-Stuart, much to Paul Postma’s chagrin).
Andrew Copp and Chase Deo Leo had excellent showings, but everyone knew this training camp was going to be a numbers crunch. In the end, Brandon Tanev won this year's fourth line battle, while Kyle Connor showed himself more ready than folks may have expected. So long as the latter receives adequate opportunity, his addition is a boon to the lineup’s depth, and Winnipeg still has multiple options just a call-up away (Brendan Lemieux remains on the roster due to injury). Reassignments made both today and previously should provide the Manitoba Moose a more potent offence up front, though the loss of Morrissey is cause for concern on the back end.
The organization hasn’t completely moved into its next wave of youth and skill. Chris Thorburn remains, as does the aforementioned Stuart. But those two especially were never likely to go anywhere, and in waiving Peluso and Pavelec, the Winnipeg Jets are beginning to tangibly make good on their words that winning matters.
Brendan Lemieux has recovered from his upper-body injury and has been assigned to the AHL, leaving the Jets with their 23-man roster to enter the season.
This post has been updated.