Pavelec focused on the present

Pending free agent not thinking about next year

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Ondrej Pavelec wasn’t perfect but he was more than enough for the Winnipeg Jets last week.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/01/2017 (2138 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Ondrej Pavelec wasn’t perfect but he was more than enough for the Winnipeg Jets last week.

After being recalled from the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, Pavelec reeled off a pair of desperately needed wins — 6-3 over the Arizona Coyotes Wednesday and 5-3 over the St. Louis Blues Saturday — and the veteran goaltender is expected to get the start when the Jets host the Anaheim Ducks Monday. 

Is it possible Pavelec is more than just a temporary fix for the Jets’ goaltending woes? He is in the final year of a five-year, US$19.5-million contract and many observers believe his future will be somewhere else — anywhere but Winnipeg.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Netminder Ondrej Pavelec is thinking about the team's next game, not next season.

The 29-year-old Czech product isn’t interested in the speculation.

In the fall, he accepted his demotion to the AHL with humility and class and has been a calming presence since returning to the Jets last week. A scenario where Pavelec would serve as an experienced, lower cost No. 2 behind the anointed No. 1, Connor Hellebuyck, doesn’t seem completely far-fetched.

“I’m not thinking about next year — at all,” said Pavelec, who established a franchise record with 25 saves in the second period of Saturday’s win. “I don’t know what’s gonna happen. I’m gonna be a free agent, I guess, for the first time. I have no idea what I’m gonna do. 

“There’s no point, there’s no reason to think about next year. Whatever happens, happens. I can’t control those things — what’s gonna happen in July. I’ve got my own problems to focus on. I’m gonna focus on tomorrow’s game and that’s pretty much it.”

Piling up victories is his chief concern at the moment.

“I think the guys played pretty well in front of me. The first game was kind of a different story from last night… we scored 11 goals in two games — I think the guys make it really easy on me and we’ll see what happen next,” he said.

Jets head coach Paul Maurice seemed open to Pavelec’s return.

“Everything is possible. There’s so much that’s transpired, there’s so much good for Ondrej to look forward to — that will be taken care of at that time. So we have a real narrow focus on each game and that’s exactly where he is mentally,” Maurice said. 

“He doesn’t spend a whole lot of time — he probably did more of that thinking over the last two or three months — where he was going to be. But back in the National Hockey League, playing well, this is the start to the possibilities of the future.”

Pavelec’s presence, with Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson remaining on the roster, gives the Jets a three-goalie system Maurice would normally prefer to avoid.

“It’s difficult to keep three goaltenders game-ready,” said Maurice. “But we have something unusual here… so right now, it’s a benefit to us. We can take a goaltender out of main practice and Connor did that this morning — 45 minutes of really specific technical work. Something that’s difficult to do because we need goalies to practise. With two that’s hard to do that.”

How long will he permit the situation to continue?

“When our goaltending looks like it has — indefinitely,” said Maurice, smiling.

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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