The Winnipeg Jets made an unbelievable move Thanksgiving Monday. They waived Ondrej Pavelec. This is the first time the Jets have made a smart decision when it comes to Pavelec since he entered the organization during their days as the Atlanta Thrashers when Pavelec and his agent, Allan Walsh, demanded he be given a starting job in the organization. Don’t believe me? Ask Laura, a recovering Thrashers fan and current site manager of St. Louis Game Time.
Since the days they were the Atlanta Thrashers, the Jets have been strong-armed by the Pavelec camp. For those who do not know, Pavelec was destined to be the back-up behind Kari Lehtonen after Lehtonen returned from injury. Instead of that happening Lehtonen was traded and Pavelec was handed the starting position after two mediocre years in the AHL with one good playoff run in there for good measure. This was how Pavelec became the starting goalie in the organization for seven years. It officially ended today.
True North Sports and Entertainment is willing to pay a NHL salary in the AHL. This is not a minor NHL salary either, but one that is $4 750 000 and carries a cap hit of $3 900 000, of which $2 850 000 will count against the Jets cap. That does not matter though because they have a lot of cap space and unless they bring a big salary back of they trade Jacob Trouba, they are fine in that sense.
This move is significant for many different reasons: it is holding a player accountable to their performance over a long period of time, it is ending the period of evaluation on at least one player, it is swallowing some pride, and it puts everyone on notice that if you do not perform up to standards and someone outperforms you, you can be sent to the AHL. This is a great message to send to a team that has accomplished very little in their 17 years in the NHL.
This move is probably too late, but the Jets did make an actual important decision about a goaltender when they had other, better in-house options available to them. Maybe Michael Hutchinson starts struggling again in the NHL and needs to go back to the AHL. Maybe Connor Hellebuyck will need more AHL time. Those are both possible scenarios. What is known now is whenever Pavelec was given the starters position, aside from the 2014-2015 season, underperformed it greatly and showed himself to not be a day-to-day starter in the NHL. This was not about needing a better roster to properly evaluate goaltending with, this was about a goalie who was usually out of the top-30 in most goaltending statistics categories.
This is not about Pavelec not being given a fair opportunity to prove himself again. This is about a player who has consistently under-performed both their position and their pay losing their spot to better players who cost less than they do. In fact, Hellebuyck’s cap hit means that the Jets are saving money on goaltending by sending Pavelec to the AHL this year.
The Winnipeg Jets finally made a positive step with their goaltending. They made the sensible move. They hopefully gave the rest of the players the best chance to win every night. It may have been too late for some, but it has finally happened and that says a lot.