Earlier this year, there was plenty of speculation that one of or both Connor Hellebuyck and Mark Scheifele would be on another team come training camp, yet both remain Winnipeg Jets entering their contract years.
The two stars spoke with reporters Thursday and indicated they are open to staying with the team on a long-term basis.
Hellebuyck shied away from making too many firm statements but made it clear he has not closed the door on re-signing with Winnipeg.
“I’m going to be patient. We’ll see how everything unfolds in the upcoming future, but I’m here, I’m a Jet and I’m just gonna try to win a Cup with this team,” he told reporters. “I feel like if I say anything now, it could change tomorrow. It’s the business side of things. I have an open mind. I’m not closing the door to anywhere. I’m going to look at anywhere that I think can win a Cup, and I know this locker room can win a Cup. That’s been my main goal and main focus. … I guess that’s the only information I can give you, is I’m going to try to win a Cup.”
When asked if he planned on halting negotiations once the regular season begins so as to avoid off-ice distractions, Hellebuyck said: “The dialogue between me and my agent is going to be what it needs to be. We still have time. And it can be one of those things that if it drags on and becomes a distraction, well, then we handle it then, but as of now it’s no distraction in my house.”
Hellebuyck has served as the team’s primary starter since 2016, winning the Vezina Trophy in 2020 and being named a finalist two additional times. He’s expected to ber backed-up in the crease by Laurent Brossoit, who signed a one-year deal with the Jets in free agency.
“I love it here, I love the fans here, I love the city, it’s very outdoorsman and that’s what I am,” the goaltender added. “That being said, I don’t want to come say to (the media) something and tomorrow it changes and be different, so I’m just going to leave it as I’m going to win a Cup and wherever I can win a Cup is where I want to be.”
Scheifele said he didn’t let the fact he’s entering the final year of his contract interfere with his summer or off-season training.
“It’s not really on my mind. I have one year left on my deal and I’m here to focus on this team, helping this team succeed, and that’s really my only focus,” Scheifele explained. “I’ve told them I’m open to staying. This is my 13th camp, so it’s been a long time and I’ve enjoyed every day of it, and I’m definitely open to staying.”
Both players are 30 years old and set to become unrestricted free agents in 2024.
Scheifele’s and Hellebuyck’s average annual values against the salary cap are each slightly north of $6.1 million. The Jets have about $50 million committed to the 2024-25 cap, with Nino Niederreiter, Brendan Dillon and Dylan DeMelo among the other Jets players scheduled to hit free agency next summer.
The Jets traded forward Pierre-Luc Dubois to the Kings in a blockbuster earlier in the off-season and bought out the remainder of former captain Blake Wheeler’s contract, while both Hellebuyck’s and Scheifele’s names were circulating at points on the rumour mill.
The trade deadline for the 2023-24 season is March 8, a date Jets fans should have circled on their calendars.
Winnipeg has won just a single playoff series since 2018 and the team’s head coach, Rick Bowness, ripped into his club when it was eliminated by the Golden Knights in the opening round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.