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Hellebuyck agrees to six-year contract with Jets

Vezina Trophy runner-up avoids arbitration, gets $37 million

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

WINNIPEG -- Connor Hellebuyck agreed to terms on a six-year, $37 million contract with the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.

It has an average annual value of $6.167 million and allows the 25-year-old goalie, who was a restricted free agent, and the Jets to avoid a salary arbitration hearing.

Hellebuyck was 44-11-9 with a 2.36 goals-against average, a .924 save percentage and six shutouts in 67 games (64 starts) last season. He was 9-8 with a 2.36 GAA, a .922 save percentage and two shutouts in 17 games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs to help the Jets reach the Western Conference Final. He finished second in voting for the Vezina Trophy behind Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators.

Hellebuyck said he is confident he can continue to be an elite goaltender, now that he is being paid like one.

"I expect the most out of myself and I want everyone to expect the most out of me because I want to bring my A-plus game every single night," he said. "If it's not A-plus, (hopefully) it's good enough to win. That's the key for this team, everyone wanting to do more."

Hellebuyck's 44 wins last season tied Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning for first in the NHL and set a record for the most by a United States-born goalie in a single season, passing Tom Barrasso, who had 43 with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992-93. Hellebuyck also tied the NHL record for home wins in a season (30), set by Wayne Stephenson of the Philadelphia Flyers in 1975-76.

Hellebuyck said his accomplishments last season are his baseline going forward.

"That's my goal," he said. "My goal is to prove, and I've always believed in myself, that I have the right people around me. I have the right agent and the right organization and the right trainer and the right goalie coaches to help me succeed. Anytime something falters, we know exactly what to fall back on."

Video: VGK@WPG, Gm5: Hellebuyck stones Haula in front

In 2016-17, Hellebuyck was 26-19-4 with a 2.89 GAA and .907 save percentage in 56 games (53 starts). He was not No. 1 on the Jets depth chart to start last season after they signed veteran Steve Mason on July 1, 2017. The Jets traded Mason, forward Joel Armia and two draft picks to the Montreal Canadiens for minor league defenseman Simon Bourque on June 30.

Hellebuyck said his progress and experience were major reasons he agreed to stay long term with the Jets.

"Because I've settled in and the fans are great and the organization is great," said Hellebuyck, a fifth-round pick (No. 130) of the 2012 NHL Draft. "I've gotten along great with the team here and the chemistry has been built. I think the tools are in this locker room to be a championship team, and that's fun. It's fun to play, and that's the reason we grew up playing, to have this kind of chance to go after a dream."

Helping Winnipeg to a franchise-record 114 points (52-20-10), second in the Central Division and NHL standings behind Nashville, then winning two rounds in the playoffs, left a lasting impression -- so much so that Hellebuyck is embracing the idea of trying to do more in a Canadian market.

"It's a huge factor," he said. "These fans are great and the playoff atmosphere was incredible. I think that's part of a championship team; they need that atmosphere. Like I said, I think the tools are all here.

"Just the fact our team was winning and enjoying it. We were having so much fun in this locker room and you could feel it in the locker room that everyone was happy and having fun and wanting to come to practice and wanting to come to the rink. You don't get that every day and you don't get that every place you go. Just to have a team like that around you is really fun to be part of."

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