Winnipeg Jets’ General Manager Kevin Chevaldayoff may have signed fan-favourite coach Paul Maurice on Tuesday, but his comments afterwards have fans scratching their heads.
When asked about the Jets’ goaltending situation heading in to the 2014-15 NHL season, “Chevy’s” response was simple:
“Ondrej Pavelec is the No. 1 goaltender going into next season.”
The move doesn’t sound surprising to the average outsider, but for Jets’ fans, it was news they didn’t want to hear. Pavelec is coming off the worst season of his career, where he had a 3.01 GAA, .901% save percentage, and allowed the most goals of any NHL goaltender, 163. Many have said Pavelec was the most disappointing Jet of the season.
Pavelec simply couldn’t find consistency: He was hot and cold, and after stretches where he seemed calm and confident in the crease, he would be pulled mid-way through the following game. It wasn’t just the fans noticing, too; Chevaldayoff had this to say about Pavelec’s streaky play:
“He’s a relatively young goaltender when it comes to being a starting goaltender. When you give those young players those opportunities to excel, there’s going to be some bumps along the way.”
Many expected the Jets to buyout the contract of Pavelec, which runs through the 2016-17 season, carrying a salary cap hit of $3.9 million.
It seems that the Jets’ management group will not test the free agent market this summer, which currently includes proven goaltenders in Cam Ward, Ryan Miller, and young stars in Jonas Hiller and Brian Elliott. With back-up Al Montoya, who was easily the Jets’ more consistent netminder, set to join that group of Unrestricted Free Agents this summer, it is likely that his replacement could come from within.
Now that the Jets’ goaltending dilemma has been solved so soon, it is time to look to the future. Can the Jets become a playoff contender with the 26-year old in goal?
Pavelec has never been among the NHL’s top goaltenders, but he has proved he can be better than he was in the past year. Take, for instance, the 2011-12 season, where he amassed the only positive record in his career, 29-28-9. Pavelec started 68 games in that season, which could be the case in 2014-15 if the Jets have a back-up with little or no NHL experience. His save percentage and GAA were still mediocre, but each night, the Jets were in the game, even against some of the NHL’s top teams. Historically, in order for Pavelec to be successful, he needs to start consistently, and carry a heavy workload.
The Jets’ roster still has some work to be done, however, and Chevaldayoff will have to improve Winnipeg’s blue-line if they want a shot into the playoffs this season. Even with Jacob Trouba‘s emergence as a future star, the Jets will need another defenseman to play 22+ minutes a night, especially with Zach Bogosian‘s injury-filled season in 2013-14. Dustin Byfuglien looks to be starting the season at forward in the fall, leaving one less Jets defender to fill the tough minutes.
The answer to our question could surface after the Jets’ roster is locked in at training camp, but it will take a good chunk of the upcoming season to see if Chevaldayoff’s gamble pays off. With some Jets fans already calling for a change in management, another inconsistent season from Pavelec could mean the end not only his own, but Chevy’s time with the team.
Thanks for reading. For everything Winnipeg Jets, as well as complete coverage of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, follow us on Twitter @hkyattheforks.
You can interact with Skylar on Twitter @Millly17.