The Winnipeg Jets announced major news on the eve of the 2023-24 NHL season, signing franchise goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and star forward Mark Scheifele to seven-year contract extensions. The deals take effect for the 2024-25 season and carry identical $8.5-million cap hits.
Hellebuyck and Scheifele were both slated to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2023-24 season and this is a massive coup for Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. The 30-year-old Hellebuyck will play this year carrying a $6.16-million cap hit, while Scheifele holds a $6.25-million cap hit.
We're doing the cooking this Thanksgiving Monday 😌
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) October 9, 2023
This is a somewhat surprising development as it was widely thought that the Jets had maximized their window for Stanley Cup contention, with the existing core stalling in its progress to win a title. Winnipeg was bounced in the first round of the playoffs last year and is several years removed from a 2018 trip to the conference finals.
Hellebuyck is one of the best goalies in the NHL and the 2020 Vezina Trophy winner was considered to be a leading trade candidate. He posted a 37-25-2 record with a .920 save percentage, while saving 30.8 goals above expected in 64 games during the 2022-23 campaign. He is the franchise leader in virtually every goaltending category and is the central pillar of the team’s current era. In a league where goaltending production fluctuates wildly on a year-to-year basis, Hellebuyck is one of the few constantly elite players at his position.
Scheifele is the Jets’ franchise leader in playoff goals and the club is now expecting him to consistently produce at a 65-point pace for the duration of the contract. The 30-year-old recorded a career-best 42 goals and 68 points in 81 games last season.
Winnipeg faced the daunting prospect of letting Hellebuyck and Scheifele walk for free next summer or, at best, a protracted return at the trade deadline. Although Scheifele’s deal may not age well for the latter half of its term, the Jets can operate with more cost certainty throughout the year and Cheveldayoff’s confidence in his core group apparently has never wavered.