Cap Comparables: Hellebuyck contract could be steal for Jets

Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck talks about his excitement to re-sign for 6 more years, and the believe the entire organization has in this championship quality group.

Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff deserves a pat on the back after locking up franchise goalie Connor Hellebuyck for the next six seasons.

Hellebuyck’s new deal carries with it a team-friendly annual salary cap hit of $6.167 million—a bargain considering the season the 25-year-old just had.

The Commerce, Mich., native made a career-high 67 appearances in 2017-18 and led the league with 44 wins, setting a single-season franchise record along the way. His six shutouts and .924 save percentage were also franchise records.

Hellebuyck finished second in Vezina Trophy voting as the NHL’s top goaltender and 13th in Hart Trophy voting, illustrating just how valuable he was to a Jets team that finished with the second-best record in the league and advanced to the Western Conference Final.

It wasn’t too long ago that Cheveldayoff inked Mark Scheifele to a long-deal that pays him an average of $6.125 million per year. Having those two stars under control through the 2023-24 season at a combined $12.892 million is a triumph in cap management.

Cheveldayoff isn’t done handing out new deals, either.

Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor are eligible to sign long-term extensions—both are entering the final year of their entry-level deals—while Blake Wheeler and Tyler Myers are set to become unrestricted free agents following the 2018-19 campaign. Current RFAs Jacob Trouba, Josh Morrissey, Tucker Poolman, Brandon Tanev, Adam Lowry and Marko Dano need new deals.

Saving money on players the calibre of Hellebuyck and Scheifele will make keeping the Jets core intact easier and could ensure this Jets team remains a legitimate Cup contender for the foreseeable future.

There are 24 goalies set to have a cap hit north of $4 million in 2018-19 and Hellebuyck is the youngest among them. In fact, he’ll only be 31 when this deal expires.

With all that in mind, here’s a look at a few of Hellebuyck’s contemporaries that are on similar deals.

Braden Holtby (five years, $30.5 million, $6.1-million cap hit)

Holtby signed this deal in 2015 when he was 25, just like Hellebuyck. Holtby won the Vezina his first season after signing. The next year he was the Vezina runner-up and earned the William M. Jennings Trophy. The third year on his deal saw him lead the Washington Capitals to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. Safe to say this deal has worked out swimmingly for the Caps thus far.

Keep in mind, Holtby’s $6.1-million AAV began in 2015 when the cap was lower than it currently is, so Hellebuyck has a friendlier cap hit relative to the market.

Semyon Varlamov (five years, $29.5 million, $5.9-million cap hit)

If Hellebuyck were to follow a similar trajectory to Varlamov then Jets fans might be slightly disappointed with this deal a few years from now. Varlamov signed back in 2014 midway through what ended up being a career year for him. The Russian led the league in wins and saves that season but hasn’t been able to get back to the level at which he performed. Varlamov is now 30 as he enters the final year of his deal and his future with the Colorado Avalanche is somewhat of a mystery with the team trading for Philipp Grubauer and signing the former Capitals backup to a three-year deal.

Frederik Andersen (five years, $25 million, $5-million cap hit)

Andersen only had 90 starts under his belt before the Toronto Maple Leafs gave him a five-year deal after acquiring him from the Anaheim Ducks in 2016. Hellebuyck has started 143 games in the first three years of his NHL career so the Jets had a larger sample size to consider. Hellebuyck faces fewer shots than Andersen—literally every goalie does—and he’s got a better group of defencemen playing in front of him, so it’s not entirely surprising the Jets’ keeper posted better numbers than the Leafs’ backstopper but both are tasked with taking young, talented teams to the next level.

Sergei Bobrovsky (four years, $29.7 million, $7.425-million cap hit)

The Columbus Blue Jackets netminder already had a Vezina Trophy to his name when he earned this contract that expires in less than 12 months, so it’s no surprise he was rewarded with a significant cap hit—only Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist have higher AAVs. Bobrovsky won his second Vezina in 2017 and the Blue Jackets have made the playoffs two years running so this, by all accounts, was a fair deal. Whether he gets a salary bump on his next deal will depend on how the 2018-19 campaign unfolds.

The four goalies listed above signed their deals when they were restricted free agents or pending RFAs. Below you’ll find a list of goalies with comparable contracts, except they all signed when they were UFAs, meaning they were all older than Hellebuyck and naturally had more risks involved.

— Cory Schneider (seven years, $42 million, $6-million cap hit, signed at age 28)
— Cory Crawford (six years, $36 million, $6-million cap hit, signed at age 29)
— Martin Jones (six years, $34.5 million, $5.75-million cap hit, signed at age 27)
— Mike Smith (six years, $34 million, $5,666,667cap hit, signed at age 31)
— Jimmy Howard (six years, $31.7 million, $$5,291,666 cap hit, signed at age 29)

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