The Winnipeg Jets have a goaltending competition on their hands, and that’s exactly what general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff wants.
“I think what we basically said from the start is that we wanted to have that competition and we know that Steve Mason is a proven No. 1 goaltender in this league,” Cheveldayoff said. “But we’re very upfront with everybody, that it was going to be about winning for us, so certainly there were no misconceptions there.”
The team picked up Mason in free agency this past summer on a two-year deal in an effort to upgrade the crease following a 2016-17 that saw plenty of instability in Winnipeg’s blue paint.
Mason has started four games so far this season and has yet to register his first win as a Jet. The 11th-year pro has a record of 0-3-1, a 4.84 goals-against average and an .872 save percentage. Hellebuyck, meanwhile, has excelled. The 24-year-old hasn’t lost in regulation through 11 games this season, going 8-0-2 and carrying a 2.12 goals-against average and .936 save percentage—good for third-best in that category league-wide.
“We still think that Mason is a No. 1 goaltender and for us to make any noise or do anything, we’re going to need to have that kind of goaltending on any given night,” Cheveldayoff explained. “His last outing against Columbus, he played exceptionally well—we lost in overtime, through no fault of his own. We’re happy that we have the goaltending situation that we do this year.”
While the numbers clearly point to Hellebuyck as the Jets’ main man, Cheveldayoff is focusing less on declaring a No. 1 netminder and more on the bigger picture.
“I think the competition that we have is probably helping Connor with where he’s at as well,” he said. “When you don’t have competition, there’s a different element in there as well. It’s a healthy situation that we have here … we hope that competition keeps pushing both of those guys, because you’re going to need them.”
We’ll see both goalies in action this weekend, as the 8-3-3 Jets ready themselves for back-to-back matchups against the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday and the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.
“There’s going to be enough games for everybody to go around and if they’re both playing well,” said Cheveldayoff. “That’ll be a healthy situation.”