Jets GM: 'Our singular focus is winning' with Hellebuyck, Scheifele
The Winnipeg Jets' two biggest trade chips appear to be off the market - at least for now.
When asked about Connor Hellebuyck on Friday, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said he expects the Jets goaltender to be in the opening-night lineup and isn't seeking to deal him or fellow pending unrestricted free agent Mark Scheifele.
“The narrative took on a life of its own,” Cheveldayoff said, according to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun and Michael Russo. “Obviously we made some changes to our organization and we think we’re situated to be in a real good, competitive spot."
The GM also said the team and the two players in question have talked over the summer and plan to meet in-person when training camp opens later in September.
In June, it was reported Hellebuyck wasn't interested in signing an extension with Winnipeg. Not long after that, another report indicated the Jets had a conversation with the New Jersey Devils about the three-time Vezina Trophy finalist and 2019-20 recipient of the honor.
The organizational change Cheveldayoff is referring to began later that month, when he signed and then shipped disgruntled forward Pierre-Luc Dubois to the Los Angeles Kings for Gabriel Vilardi, Alex Iafallo, Rasmus Kupari, and a second-round pick in next year's draft. A few days later, the Jets bought out former captain Blake Wheeler's contract.
“Our singular focus is winning,” Cheveldayoff said Friday. “That’s what we’re all about. So every challenge that we approach, every opportunity, or every time we get a chance to look at a different situation, it’s about putting us in the best perspective, the best place to win. That hasn’t changed and it won’t change for our organization.”
Hellebuyck has spent his entire eight-year career with the Jets, who drafted him 130th overall in 2012. The 30-year-old American has been Winnipeg's unquestioned starter since 2016-17. He's been a model of consistency and elite play for much of that time, posting a .916 career save percentage in addition to his frequent appearances on Vezina ballots.
Scheifele has been one of the most reliable offensive centers in the league for years in his own right. The Canadian, who's also 30, racked up a career-high 42 goals and added 26 assists over 81 games last season.
Hellebuyck's cap hit is $6,166,666, while Scheifele is on the books at $6.125 million, according to CapFriendly.