In case you missed it, the Carolina Hurricanes have agreed to a two-year extension with longtime goaltender and pending UFA Cam Ward:
It was a curious move considering Ward's body of work, especially of late. Yes, he does have a Stanley Cup to his name. But that moment of triumph is now a decade old, while Ward is coming off a season where his overall save percentage was tied with Karri Ramo. Among the 58 goaltenders who played at least 20 games, Ward's .916 even strength save percentage was 45th, equalling that of Ondrej Pavelec. In what should probably be a results-based business, Ward's two-year extension worth $3.3 million per seems a little odd.
To help make sense of it, I present an expansion draft-related quote from Elliotte Friedman's 30 Thoughts on June 11th: "Current clubs will also have to offer a goaltender who’s under contract for 2017-18 or an RFA-to-be in 2018."
With this in mind, Ward's extension is easier to comprehend. While it reportedly features a limited no-trade provision, it does not include a no-move clause. This will allow GM Ron Francis to expose Cam Ward in the coming expansion draft, serving alongside Daniel Altshuller as netminders who satisfy the NHL's requirement (the Hurricanes also have the option of exposing Eddie Lack, but one figures he'll be the goalie Carolina protects).
Ward's continuing presence does also buy Alex Nedeljkovic time to develop, and perhaps Cam Ward is what the Carolina Hurricanes are about. But with Las Vegas seemingly a done deal, it's hard not to see this contract through an expansion draft lens.
The case for re-signing Michael Hutchinson (or Ondrej Pavelec)
But what does Cam Ward have to do with the Winnipeg Jets? In short, it may present a model Kevin Cheveldayoff will soon emulate.
If and when the expansion draft comes, presumably in June of 2017, the Winnipeg Jets are going to protect Connor Hellebuyck. The problem is that at the moment, the Jets do not possess "a goaltender who’s under contract for 2017-18 or an RFA-to-be in 2018." On the June 2017 timeline, Winnipeg couldn't offer Eric Comrie to the Las Vegas gods even if they wanted to; as a second-year pro, he will be automatically exempt. Michael Hutchinson currently isn't under contract for 2016-17, much less the year after, and Ondrej Pavelec is entering the final year of his deal before hitting unrestricted free agency.
Unless Winnipeg goes out and acquires a goaltender who will then be exposed, Chevy will need to ensure either Ondrej Pavelec or Michael Hutchinson are under contract for 2017-18.
In the comments section of our "Tyler Myers does not have a no-move clause" article, allan5oh mentioned how "Speaking of Hutch I bet he gets a 2 year deal". He may have been onto something. Signing Hutch to a one-year extension is no good; he'll be a pending UFA after his next deal. While he isn't exactly coming off a stellar 2015-16, the quick, easy and probably cheapest solution to Winnipeg's dilemma is to sign the pending RFA to a two-year contract. The Jets will have a player handy to fulfil their expansion draft requirement, and if the contract is of minimal financial impact as expected, Winnipeg will either possess an inexpensive backup or veteran depth to throw to the Moose.
As a pending RFA coming off both a down season and cheap contract, is Hutch the logical solution to Winnipeg's expansion draft puzzle? What price and term would an Ondrej Pavelec deal have to be to make sense? Or does Pav come with too much baggage for an extension to be realistic? Share your thoughts, questions and concerns in the Comments section below, and as always, thanks for reading!