The Winnipeg Jets have had plenty of issues with goaltending before. From everyday inconsistencies to a young goaltender working through some kinks, they have had their fair share of problems. This year’s crease complication is due to the fact of an overload of the position.
The Jets enter the season without Ondrej Pavelec in the organization for the first time since getting drafted in 2005 by the Atlanta Thrashers. Pavelec spent the majority of the season with the Manitoba Moose last year but was still relied on for a string of games nearing the end of the season with the big club.
With Pavelec out of the picture, the Jets will count on newcomer Steve Mason and budding American, Connor Hellebuyck to lead the team into the playoffs for the first time since the 2014-15 season. This leaves Barrie, Ontario local Michael Hutchinson on the outside looking in.
Michael Hutchinson has played all 99 career games with the Winnipeg Jets (Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports)
Hutchinson currently sits at 99 career games played and number 100 likely won’t be played in a Jets uniform. Injuries can derail the current pecking order in net, however, they also have 22-year-old Eric Comrie seasoning in the minors.
With the Jets’ brimful crease, Hutchinson is the most likely candidate to get dealt and it may be as early as training camp. Injuries may increase interest but as it stands right now, these three clubs could use an extra netminder like Hutchinson in their fold.
The Edmonton Oilers
Last season, Cam Talbot proved that he should be considered among the league’s elite goaltenders. Ask Oilers head coach Todd McLellan and he will tell you that Talbot was playing so well he decided to start him 73 games. From an unbiased perspective, a lack of trust in the backup position was a more realistic situation.
The Jonas Gustavsson experiment was an unmitigated disaster but the limited starts prospect Laurent Brossoit saw showed promise. Brossoit, a 2011 six-round pick of the Calgary Flames, is currently pencilled in as the backup to Talbot come fall.
It is believed that the Oilers would like to roll with Brossoit to give him the much-needed experience. It is possible that if a few starts in preseason don’t go as planned for the former Edmonton Oil King, that an extra dose of seasoning in the minors wouldn’t hurt.
Hutchinson would be an addition that makes sense. He has averaged around 30 starts per year since entering the league and the Oilers would likely only need their backup to play 20 to 25 games. If one thing is for certain, it’s that Hutchinson is more proven than Brossoit at this point in their careers.
The Minnesota Wild
Like Talbot, Devan Dubnyk doesn’t need to prove anything anymore. Once upon a time, Dubnyk battled instability on a yearly basis with terrible Oilers squads through their decade of darkness. Now, the 2014-15 Vezina Trophy nominee is a proven starter.
The worries for the Wild are not at the starting position. Instead, the need is to focus their energy on the pursuit of a secondary goalie. The organizational depth chart between the pipes for the Wild has Dubnyk as number one and a massive drop in prowess to the number two spot.
Alex Stalock has seen NHL duties before, playing parts of two seasons in San Jose backing up Antti Niemi. What is problematic is the amount of starts Stalock has seen over the last two seasons in the NHL. Only 15 games, just shy of 800 minutes.
Putting this out there: I have many, many doubts about Alex Stalock as the backup goaltender.
The American Hockey League is no joke. It is after all a professional league and the closest to NHL quality skill. Nonetheless, the jump is still substantial, especially at the goaltending position. After two seasons in the minors, many should question if Stalock is still capable of bringing it at the NHL level.
Hutchinson would be a smart addition to improve their depth. The former Boston Bruins draft pick has more NHL experience than Stalock and comes in three years younger. Admittedly, his cap hit is a tad more but there is no competition at the position and that must be fixed.
The Vegas Golden Knights
Beginning an expansion franchise with a stellar starter like Marc-Andre Fleury is huge for the Golden Knights. It immediately gives them an opportunity to win games which they otherwise wouldn’t have with an average goalie in the net.
The three-time Stanley Cup Champion isn’t only the best goalie on this roster, he is the best player on this roster. Surprisingly, the French Canadian has never been nominated for the Vezina Trophy in his career but is capable of a heavy workload and will receive one.
The Golden Knights’ backup position is nothing to gawk at as well. They picked 25-year-old Calvin Pickard as their expansion draft selection from the Colorado Avalanche. Like seemingly every member of the Avalanche last season, Pickard had his struggles. He will look to rebound his young career in Sin City.
Marc-Andre Fleury has seen his last days in a Penguins jersey and will look to continue his success with the Vegas Golden Knights. (Don Wright-USA TODAY Sports)
With Fleury and Pickard, the Golden Knights look comfortable enough to get by in their inaugural season. Goaltending is the position that injuries are the most magnified and rightly so. Which is why the thought must occur to Golden Knights brass, what if Fleury goes down with an injury?
Pickard stepped in last season for an injured Semyon Varlamov but the chain reaction leads to a void in the backup spot. The only other goalies in their system are Oscar Dansk and Maxime Lagace, both without an NHL game under their belt.
Hutchinson is the perfect player for this hypothetical. If this unfortunate situation were to occur, it is possible that the deal could happen later on in the season. The Golden Knights have a heck of a lot more use for Hutchinson than the Jets do at this juncture.
Despite what his deployment may be with the Jets, there is no doubt in my mind Hutchinson is a top 60 goalie in the league, therefore a backup spot should be available from the right team. If the Jets fail to find a deal for Hutchinson, his destination could be found via the waiver wire.