Rumors around Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck abound. Hellebuyck has been linked with Philadelphia, Buffalo, and the Carolina Hurricanes. With the Hurricanes net minding situation as it is, it is only natural. But if Fleetwood Mac taught us anything, it’s that while three is a crowd, four is even more tumultuous. Unless there is a 5th who is as equally clueless as Mick Fleetwood, it is best to draw the line at three.
It goes without saying that Hellebuyck needs to be on a better team than 4th place Winnipeg. Though the Jets won a Wild Card spot in the Western Conference playoff, the team finished 46-33-3. Hellebuyck won 76% of those 46.
Connor Hellebuyck would certainly get more goal support anywhere else without a doubt. Winnipeg ended the season with a +22 goal differential. Of the 16 teams that finished the season with positive stats in that column, the Jets rank in the bottom 5.
Benefits For Carolina
And Carolina could certainly do with a top rate tender like Hellebuyck. Ranked 3rd in the NHL in wins with 37, Hellebuyck ended the regular season with a .920 SV% and a 2.49 goals against average. Maybe most attractive for Carolina is Hellebuyck’s 64 games started, and 64 games finished. Having a goalie that can remain healthy all year would be a boon to Carolina’s roster.
Hellebuyck’s stamina and lack of injury might be his biggest selling point for Carolina. In 8 NHL seasons, his career low in appearances was his rookie season with Winnipeg in 2016-16. That year he appeared in 23 games and posted a solid .918 SV%. Since then Hellebuyck has been steady in the net, playing fewer than 50 games only once.
At What Cost
If the Hurricanes were willing to make a move for Connor Hellebuyck, it would mean that Frederik Andersen and/ or Antti Raanta would likely be packing bags. While there is nothing else in the hockey world I want more than to see a top tier goalie in the net instead of Freddie Andersen, I cannot see Carolina dropping two goalies for one. Even for one as good as Connor Hellebuyck.
Unloading Andersen AND Raanta would, however, create more than enough room for Hellebuyck who carries a hit of $6,166,666. Though both Andersen and Raanta have expressed interest in staying in Carolina, they are both Unrestricted Free Agents. Hellebuyck is an UFA at the end of next season, so it is possible that the Hurricanes might make a move now while their surplus of goaltenders is high.
What Could Happen
AHL goalie Zackary Sawchenko is also an unrestricted free agent as well. With the signing of Yaniv Perets, the Canes have a more than capable AHL goalie in their stable right now. Dropping Sawchenko to sweeten another deal is possible and give an AHL spot to Perets is something that makes sense for Carolina on the AHL front.
As for the NHL, of course there is Pyotr Kochetkov, who could easily become Carolina’s #2. The extra seasoning could help PK, and would put him in a good spot to one day completely take over the net towards the end of his 4 year contract.
Carolina essentially has three goalie spots between the NHL and AHL. They have four goalies, three of which have at least their toes out the door. It could be argued the goaltending situation in Carolina has not been this complicated since Fleetwood Mac tried to record Rumors in 1977.
A blockbuster move for Conner Hellebuyck would definitely give the Hurricanes an elite, consistent, experienced goaltender. But that big time move would come with a clearing of the house that perhaps the Hurricanes have been avoiding.
If Hellebuyck is the impetuous for the prolonged departure of Frederik Andersen, it will sting Carolina fans for a little while, for sure. But once Connor Hellebuyck hits the net all that would likely go away.