Connor Hellebuyck entered last season as the Winnipeg Jets presumed starter and struggled at times; ending the years with numbers close to Ondrej Pavelec’s seasons as the Jets starting goalie. His struggles came in stretches and with Michael Hutchinson struggling as well the Jets seemed to lose faith in their goalie combination after one year. Despite being closer to having a starting goalie than previous years, they decided to sign an established league starter in Steve Mason during free agency. This was a smart move, but what does it mean for Hellebuyck?
First and foremost, it means he will not retain role of starter to start the season. He has been relegated to being the back-up goalie. This is not a bad thing. Good goalies struggle all the time and some of them wait to become starters for a while: see Corey Schneider. This does not mean that Hellebuyck will become Schneider, far from it, but it is not the end of the world that he is not the starter.
In the long run, Mason has a two-year contract with the Jets having a potential salary cap crunch coming up next year. That means that by the second year of his contract they might have to let him walk and Hellebuyck will once again have the opportunity to become the starter. Furthermore, just because Mason starts off as the starter does not mean that Hellebuyck playing well or Mason struggling cannot change those circumstances.
In all, it looks like Mason is a temporary piece of the Jets, here to help the Jets win in the meantime while Hellebuyck figures out who he is as an NHL goalie. If Hellebuyck proves to be a competent goalie, there is no reason why he cannot become the starter after Mason.