WINNIPEG - The first restricted free agent signing of the summer for the Winnipeg Jets is Connor Hellebuyck. The 25-year-old inked a six year, $37 million deal with the club on Thursday.
Hellebuyck who was a fifth-round pick for the Jets in 2012, set franchise records for wins (44) and shutouts (6) last season.
"This is exciting for many reasons," said Hellebuyck who was a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2018.
"Mainly because I love it here and I want to be part of this team and I really believe this team has what it takes."
Video: OFF SEASON | Connor Hellebuyck
General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is confident that the Michigan product will build off an incredible breakout season.
"If you look at his past history he checks off all the boxes as far as going through all the steps of the development path and earning the opportunity to take the net last year," said Cheveldayoff via conference call on Thursday afternoon.
"Obviously with the training and the maturity that was in his game from the years prior to now is about becoming a pro. Helly has always been projected in our mind as a number one goaltender and the goaltender of the future for us. We're very excited we were able to come to a long term agreement for now and the future."
Video: OFF SEASON | Kevin Cheveldayoff
According to Cap Friendly, Hellebuyck's $6.167 million cap hit is comparable to the Capitals' Braden Holtby (five-years, 30.5 million, 6.1 million AAV) and the Avs Semyon Varlamov (five-years, 29.5 mil 5.9 mil AAV). Hellebuyck finished second in Vezina Trophy voting vbehind the Predators Pekka Rinne and was named a second team All-Star for the first time in his career. He said he is more than ready to prove he belongs amongst the highest paid goaltenders in the league.
"That's my goal, I have always believed in myself," said Hellebuyck.
"I have the right people around me. I have the right agent, the right organization, the right trainer and the right goalie coaches to help me succeed. Anytime something falters we know what to fall back on."
In case you are wondering, the $37 million dollar contract does not have any connection to the fact Hellebuyck wears number 37.
"I knew that question was gonna come. Sure," laughed Hellebucyk.
"No. It's an exciting time just the hard work we put into this the past year and the year before. It's an exciting time to be in Winnipeg."
With Steve Mason being dealt to the Montreal Canadiens earlier in the summer, the Jets signed former Edmonton Oilers goaltender, Laurent Brossiot. The two know each other well, Hellebuyck and Brossiot train together in the offseason.
"He's a great guy. I think we are going to have a blast together," said Hellebuyck.
"Just the fact we do the same stuff, we train the same way during the year. There's not going to be any hiccups, it's going to be smooth sailing."
Hellebuyck recorded 83 wins in 149 appearances and 12 shutouts over the past three seasons with the Jets. With his contract taken care of, Cheveldayoff can start looking at the other restricted free agents such as Jacob Trouba, Josh Morrissey and Adam Lowry.
"Every one of them (the RFA's) is different with regard to their situation," said Cheveldayoff when asked if Hellebuyck's deal would get the ball rolling on the other contract negotiations.
"I think the arbitration hearing dates came out today so (the media) can see the timing of different things."
The NHLPA did in fact release the arbitration hearing dates which, if necessary, will be held in Toronto. Here are the dates for the remaining arbitration eligible Jets players:
Jacob Trouba - July 20
Adam Lowry - July 22
Brandon Tanev - July 25
Marko Dano - July 30