With less than three weeks until the start of the regular season, NHL teams are tuning up for another exciting campaign on the ice. For the Winnipeg Jets, this season brings playoff aspirations but a few questions loom regarding the futures of two of their best players.
Both Mark Scheifele and Connor Hellebuyck are set to become unrestricted free agents after the season and there have been no signs that contract extensions for either of them are being discussed.
Hellebuyck, the Jets' all-time leader in wins and save percentage, said he is focused on what he can do on the ice now that the team is back together for training camp.
“Camp just started, so my mind has kind of shifted to, ‘Let's get things done, let's go for the Cup,’” Hellebuyck said, via Dan Rosen. “I'm just here to win. That's always been my goal, and I don't see why this year would change anything just because of the scenario I'm in.”
Hellebuyck has been one of the best goalies in the league for the past half-decade. He's a three-time All-Star and won the Vezina Trophy as the league's top netminder in 2019-2020. He has two top-four finishes since then.
He would no doubt garner trade interest this season should the Jets stumble in the early stages. Regardless, he'll be a hot commodity if the Jets do make him available, whether it be via trade or letting him walk in free agency next summer.
Last dance in Winnipeg for Scheifele?
Mark Scheifele was the Jets' first draft selection after the team relocated from Atlanta in 2011. He's been with Winnipeg his entire career and the 30-year-old sure sounds like he doesn't want his time with the franchise to end.
“I've been a Winnipeg Jet for this is my 13th camp, so it's been a long time,” Scheifele said. “I've enjoyed every day of it and I'm definitely open to staying. I have one year left on my deal and I'm here to focus on this team and helping this team succeed. That's really my only focus.”
Scheifele has consistently been a very good player for the Jets, averaging over 31 goals and 71 points over the last five seasons. he has a lot of ice time under his belt, but will turn 31 in March and clearly still has the desire to play at a high level for a few more years.
Like Hellebuyck, several teams will have Scheifele on their radars during the season. The Jets will most likely get trade calls for him, but will they be willing to part with their current longest-tenured player, especially if he's still producing?
The Jets have a couple of big decisions to make over the next nine months. How they perform this season will determine how they approach next season and beyond and will likely play a factor in the futures of Connor Hellebuyck and Mark Scheifele.