NHL Rumors: Connor Hellebuyck and Mark Scheifele
Today’s NHL Rumors examines the situation in Winnipeg regarding Connor Hellebuyck and Mark Scheifele, two pending unrestricted free agents.
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NHL Rumors: Connor Hellebuyck
When discussing who is the best goalie of this generation, one name constantly in the conversation is Jets starter Hellebuyck. As a netminder who routinely plays over 70% of his team’s games yearly, he has yet to succeed in the playoffs, skating in the Western Conference Final just once.
After spending his eight-year career with Winnipeg, Hellbuyck is coming to the end of the six-year deal he signed in 2018, which pays him a modest $6.7 million. Statistically, he’s won 155 games and the Vezina Trophy since that agreement went into effect, meaning he’s underpaid for his work. Although outside those accolades, he doesn’t have much to brag about regarding success with the Jets.
Ultimately, as the team prepares for training camp, there will be a lot of uncertainty around the club this year, with speculation running rampant regarding his future. If Hellebuyck chooses not to re-sign, the team must think about the future and the possibility he could be away for free in July 2024 and will need to trade him. Realistically, if they deal away the best goalie to ever play for the team, the move will rock the franchise’s foundation while causing panic among the fanbase that wants to see a contending team.
Interestingly, the team recently acquired Laurent Brossiant for a second stint as Hellebuyck’s backup. However, he signed for a single year, so if the team trades Hellebuyck and fails to acquire a netminder in return, the Jets would be without a starter for 2024-25.
NHL Rumors: Mark Scheifele
Meanwhile, another player in the dressing room who can’t escape the rumor mill is longtime alternate captain Scheifele. After debuting as an 18-year-old in 2011-12, he’s been a regular in the lineup, skating in 723 games and collecting 645 points. However, the team just parted ways with former captain Blake Wheeler, another long-tenured player, leaving many to wonder if the trend will continue this year with Scheifele and Hellebuyck.
Considering both players have been core members of the Jets since they relocated from Atlanta in 2011, the 2023-24 season could be a franchise-altering year. As mentioned, if the team cannot get commitment from either player, they may have to decide to move on. Of course, they could trade away these players and re-sign them in the offseason, but sometimes these moves cause friction between player and organization.
Since the Jets are contending in a stacked Central Division, their best chance to sneak into the playoffs would be as a wildcard team. However, the franchise has only skated in the second round twice since relocation, so if Hellebuyck and Scheifele want to cash in with their new contracts and chase a Stanley Cup title, it may not be in Winnipeg.
Although the Jets have some talented players like Kyle Connor, Neal Pionk, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Gabriel Vilardi, the 2023-24 season will make the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Unfortunately, the future of two marquee players’ future will overshadow any nightly successes the team has.