Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Who'll be minding the net?

Club wants to keep prime-time stopper Pavelec, considers 'options' from Mason down

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It's a question only Kevin Cheveldayoff can answer, and he likely won't:

When the Winnipeg Jets GM looks at the goaltender position on the team's depth chart, how many names -- particularly those at the top -- are written in pencil, not ink?

We bring this up today as the lead-in to the fifth and final instalment of our Jets at the Draft series analyzing the team's organizational depth heading into next week's NHL entry draft in Pittsburgh.

When it comes to the Jets' goaltending, there are some meaty question marks, what with No. 1 man Ondrej Pavelec not only a restricted free agent but drawing interest from the KHL -- negotiating ploy or not -- and with veteran backup Chris Mason scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in just over two weeks.

Not only that, but veteran David Aebischer, who appeared in 31 games in St. John's this winter, is an unrestricted free agent, and Fredrik Pettersson-Wentzel, once considered the top goaltending prospect in the system, did not have his contract renewed.

Yet all of that hardly seems to be setting off alarm bells with Cheveldayoff, who is said to be negotiating with Pavelec's agent and has a number of options -- be they in free agency or the promotion of Eddie Pasquale from St. John's -- should Mason not return.

Here's Chevy's take on the state of the Jets' goaltending:

"Ondrej had a great year and we rode him pretty hard with the number of games played. We hope that Ondrej can keep improving and taking his game to the next level, because we certainly need what he brings to the table to achieve our goals.

"And with Chris, there's obviously options available to both sides at this point.

"From a depth standpoint, we drafted Jason Kasdorf last year and he's going to go to college, and that will let him develop and continue, so that makes him more of a longer-term project. Eddie Pasquale got the opportunity this year around mid-season to become the No. 1 goalie in St. John's and take the ball and run with it.

"We had another young goaltender in the ECHL (Chris Carozzi) that is going to continue to develop and push himself into the situation where he can push at the American league level."

What's in the Jets' system?

ONDREJ PAVELEC: He seemed to wear down from the workload by the end of the season, but there's no underestimating his value to the organization. The numbers don't highlight his value enough, as on many nights he was facing more quality scoring chances than some of his NHL rivals might see in a week of games. FYI: Age: 24; 2011-12 numbers: W-L-T: 29-28-9; 2.91 GAA; .906 save percentage; four shutouts. Contract: A restricted free agent who just finished the final year of a deal that paid him $1.3 million.

CHRIS MASON: At a career crossroads. Wants to play more, but is clearly the No. 2 man here. He shouldn't be measured solely by the stats. He's a leader in the room and a mentor for Pavelec. FYI: Age: 36; 2011-12 numbers: W-L-T: 8-7-1; 2.59 GAA; .898 save percentage; 2 shutouts. Contract: An unrestricted free agent who just completed the final year of a deal that paid him $2.1 million.

Top prospect

EDDIE PASQUALE: Fourth-round pick in 2009; had a bust-out year in St. John's, going 23-12-1 with a 2.41 GAA and .927 save percentage in the regular season and was stellar in the playoffs. Stand-up goaltender who plays angles well and uses his size (6-2, 218) to cover the net. Still just 21, some think he'd be best served with a full year in St. John's as the No. 1 puck-stopper -- he grabbed that role in January -- but he could force himself into the picture with the big club.

On the Rock / In the minors

DAVID AEBISCHER: Now 34 and an unrestricted free agent, Aebischer finished the year in St. John's as Pasquale's backup. Uncertain future in the organization.

CHRIS CARROZZI: Former sixth-round pick is still on the team's radar. Was assigned to the ECHL's Ontario Reign to get more ice time and had a 2.27 GAA and .922 save percentage.

PETER MANNINO: Finished the season with Portland after being loaned to the Pirates by the IceCaps. Technically, still Jets' property, but likely not in their future.

In the system

JASON KASDORF, DES MOINES (USHL): Winnipeg product and former Portage Terrier is committed to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute next year. Was 10-16-5 with a 3.43 GAA and three shutouts on a Des Moines team that finished third-last in the USHL.

The NHL'S best

By comparison, a look at some of the NHL's top goaltenders:

1. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers: Vezina Trophy finalist -- W-L-T: 39-18-5; 1.97 GAA; .930 save percentage; 8 shutouts.

2. Pekka Rinne, Nashville: Vezina Trophy finalist -- W-L-T: 43-18-8; 2.39 GAA; .923 save percentage; 5 shutouts.

3. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles: Vezina Trophy finalist -- W-L-T: 35-21-13; 1.95 GAA; .929 save percentage; 10 shutouts.

4. Mike Smith, Phoenix: W-L-T: 38-18-10; 2.21 GAA; .930 save percentage; 8 shutouts.

5. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh.: W-L-T: 42-17-4; 2.36 GAA; .913 save percentage; 3 shutouts.

Other notable goaltenders: Jimmy Howard, Detroit; Tim Thomas, Boston; Antti Niemi, San Jose; Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary; Martin Brodeur, New Jersey; Cory Schneider, Roberto Luongo, Vancouver; Brian Elliott, St. Louis.

5 Goaltenders who become unrestricted free agents July 1:

1. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey: Record: 31-21-4; 2.41 GAA; .908 save percentage; 3 shutouts. One of the greatest of all time is now 40, but showed he could get it done in the playoffs. Can't imagine him anywhere else but Jersey.

2. Jonas Gustavsson, Toronto: Record: 17-17-4; 2.92 GAA; .902 save percentage; 4 shutouts. The 'Monster' was hardly a beast this past season. But he's just 27 and may get some calls.

3. Scott Clemmenson, Florida: Record: 14-6-6; 2.57 GAA; .913 save percentage; 1 shutout. Put up solid numbers with the Panthers. More than capable No. 2 man.

4. Josh Harding, Minnesota: Record: 13-12-4; 2.62 GAA;. 917 save percentage; 2 shutouts. Figures to draw a ton of interest, given he is just 27.

5. Al Montoya, New York Islanders: Record: 9-11-5; 3.10 GAA; .893 save percentage; 0 shutouts. Again, age helps him as he is 27.

This is the last of a five-part series. To read the other instalments, check out: winnipegfreepress.com

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 15, 2012 C4

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