With all questions about the fates of Mark Scheifele and Connor Hellebuyck in Winnipeg and if they will stay beyond the 2023-24 season, the Winnipeg Jets have answered those questions with matching contract extensions for the two of them.
Both Scheifele and Hellebuyck each signed seven-year deals that will begin next summer, each of them carrying an $8.5 million cap hit. Both contracts will have a full no-movement clause for the first three years, while the last four years of the deals will carry a 10-team no-trade list.
It is huge news for the Jets, as they not only keep their top centreman and one of the best goalies in the league for the rest of the 2020s decade, but also keep two of the top pending free agents out of the market next summer.
Both players are 30, and will be 38 when their contracts expire. There is the notion that these are the last contracts they will sign in the NHL, though these cap hits are reasonable for the most part, considering the projected cap ceiling for next year is $87.5 million. Both players are on the final years of their contracts, with Scheifele’s cap hit at $6.125 million and Hellebuyck’s at $6.167 million.
Jets Keep Their Franchise Centreman
Scheifele was the first ever draft pick by the second coming of the Jets after they relocated from Atlanta, picked 7th overall in 2011. He is the franchise leader in goals since their relocation, with 272 goals, 373 assists, and 645 points in 723 career games through 12 seasons as a Jet, and just had his first ever 40-goal season while averaging over 20 minutes per game for the seventh straight year.
However, he’s not exactly a defensive forward, and that may lead to debates on whether he is worth the $8.5 million cap hit. But he has at least a point per game in six of the last seven seasons.
This may be the best deal that Scheifele would get from general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. There isn’t the belief that a big-market team would offer him that kind of money, and it would make sense for him to stay put. He’s consistent, having last posted less than 60 points in a season in 2015-16. He’s getting a big payday and control of his contract as his career winds down.
This is both a blessing and a curse, as the question is about how much longer he can keep this up. It’s hard to imagine that he records 42 goals in a season again. 30 goals is certainly doable, but 40 goals is a different story. All the value comes from him in the offensive zone. The Jets aspire to get a deep playoff run going, and it’s understandable, but that doesn’t mean that this contract isn’t risky.
Hellebuyck Stays Put with the Only Team He’s Played For
Hellebuyck has been a Jet throughout his entire career, drafted a year after Scheifele, 130th overall in 2012. Since he made his debut in 2015-16 at 22 years old, he has since became the team’s starting goalie a season later when posting a 26-19-4 record and a .907 save percentage in 53 starts before breaking out as an elite goalie the very next season.
It was the driving force for the Jets winning their first playoff series in franchise history, leading all goalies in starts (67) and wins (44) while posting a .924 save percentage. He has had a save percentage north of .920 three times in his career, including last season, and his 357 starts in the past six seasons are tops in the league, as well as his 10,412 saves, posting himself among the league’s elite goalies as he enters his 30s.
At the same time, one can wonder what the motivation for the contract was since Hellebuyck was not willing to be on a potential rebuild, and that he’d want to win a Stanley Cup. It doesn’t appear it will be in Winnipeg, especially in the next few years. Plus, he could have made more money on the open market. However, since goaltender is the most volatile position in the NHL, he has reason to stay with the Jets.
Plus, without Hellebuyck, Winnipeg is a shell of what they were. His play in the crease is the main reason the Jets have found success every season. If he goes, it will be a gaping hole in the crease that could take ages to find his replacement. It’s necessary, though this is a good keep for the Jets. He’s going to decline at some point—it happens with every star athlete—but there isn’t a major injury of concern.
Written By Alec Nava
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