Teams that want to win big or be competitive now need a proven number-one goaltender to anchor the net. Connor Hellebuyck is in the final year of his contract and might be looking for a new home if he wants to win a Stanley Cup before he retires.
Related: Connor Hellebuyck Stats
With one year and just under $6.2 million in cap hit left on his contract, it shouldn’t be too hard to make the money work in a Connor Hellebuyck trade. Let’s dive into the three teams that will be looking to acquire the Vezina-winning goaltender.
New Jersey Devils
I had previously written about this being a possible destination for Connor Hellebuyck because the New Jersey Devils want to make some deep playoff runs soon. However, New Jersey must clear another $1.5 million in cap space to make this work comfortably. Clearing the money shouldn’t be an issue if Winnipeg is willing to retain half of Hellebuyck’s salary.
While I won’t give mock trade proposals, I see the package containing three pieces at a minimum through players and/or draft capital. Hellebuyck has been in Vezina conversation since he entered the league, and truthfully, you don’t come across a Vezina-caliber goaltender with a friendly salary who’s potentially available for trade.
The argument against the New Jersey Devils acquiring Connor Hellebuyck would be a lack of cap space and the fact that they already have a strong goaltending tandem. Vitek Vanacek and Akira Schmid proved decisive for the Devils in the 2022-23 season. Why would New Jersey not run it back between these two goalies, especially with their rookie Akira Schmid?
Connor Hellebuyck finished third in Vezina voting for the 2022-23 season. Hellebuyck was also a runner-up for the Vezina in 2017-18 and received the fourth-place nomination in 2020-21. Hellebuyck won the Vezina trophy in 2019-20 and continues progressing each season. Goaltenders are hit-and-miss; Hellebuyck has undoubtedly hit the mark each year. New Jersey may see a great opportunity in Hellebuyck being brought in and serving as a mentor to Akira Schmid. If New Jersey could have a goaltending tandem of Connor Hellebuyck and Akira Schmid, they could easily make deep playoff runs for the next few years.
The Buffalo Sabres certainly don’t have to worry about their future, especially in the goaltending position. Eric Comrie looked good in the 2022-23 season for them. The Sabres also have Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Dustin Tokarski, Devin Cooley, and Devon Levi as goaltenders.
The Sabres will be taking advantage of the fact that they have the potential to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Buffalo has a solid team and is an above-average defensive group. Connor Hellebuyck has played with worse defensive cores and won tons of games. However, the argument can be made that the additions of Connor Clifton and Erik Johnson were certainly solid blueline adds for the Sabres. If the Sabres were to pull the plug and acquire Connor Hellebuyck, they could make a serious playoff run for the next few years.
Similar to the potential New Jersey package, this would likely be a minimum trade package containing three pieces. The Sabres have the assets to acquire Hellebuyck and have more than enough cap space to fit him in without salary retention.
However, who becomes the odd goalie out? Who does Buffalo trade in the deal to make room for Connor Hellebuyck? My first guess would be Eric Comrie, but trade value is essential. The Jets will be looking for a decent haul for their Vezina-calibre goaltender. The question will remain at large until a trade is proposed and publicized.
Vegas Golden Knights
The 2023 Stanley Cup Champions will be looking to add experience and another strong goaltender to their roster. There has been chatter that the Golden Knights aren’t looking to make Logan Thompson their number-one goaltender anytime soon. Now, you must ask: Would the Golden Knights trade Logan Thompson in a deal to acquire Connor Hellebuyck?
The Golden Knights are known for their willingness to make moves with any of their players. If they are not getting the expected results, they will identify the weak link and make a change. However, of the three teams that are trade suitors for Connor Hellebuyck, Vegas has the least cap space.
Their draft capital is mostly stocked with their own picks, so they have their first-, second-, and third-round selections. This allows Vegas to overpay to get the player that they want. However, overpaying is a dangerous game to play.
Vegas is now in a tremendous goaltending situation with Adin Hill and Logan Thompson. They could upgrade and have Hill and Hellebucyk split the workload evenly, which could favor them if they want to win another Stanley Cup.
If I were to do a mock trade proposal, I don’t know where I would start. Vegas would undoubtedly be moving picks, but who becomes the cap casualty for them to acquire Hellebuyck? Would it be one of the misfits or a relatively replaceable depth player making a couple of million? If a trade is done between Winnipeg and Vegas, I see a scenario where Logan Thompson is included. That remains to be seen for the remainder of the trade until something is finalized.
The teams looking into Connor Hellebuyck have a legitimate shot at being contending teams. Buffalo is coming out of endless years of chaos and rebuilding, New Jersey is looking to make itself a significant player, and Vegas is coming from a Stanley Cup Championship.
I don’t see any other team making a move to put their heads into the Hellebuyck sweepstakes. However, I have been wrong before. Where do you see Connor Hellebucyk ending up? Do you see him retiring as a Winnipeg Jet?