Over the weekend, the Winnipeg Jets acquired the rights to goaltender Jonas Gustavsson from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a seventh-round pick in the 2013 draft. The 27-year-old Swede is due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
The Jets now have the rights to three unsigned goaltenders before free agency opens on Sunday. Ondrej Pavelec is still a restricted free agent reportedly looking for big money, Chris Mason’s deal will expire in six days and now Gustavsson is in the mix. The acquisition of “The Monster” does not necessarily spell the end of Mason in Winnipeg, as the Jets could be looking at Gustavsson as a starter if Pavelec decides to hold out or take his talents to the KHL. If Pavelec does sign, Gustavsson could be paid as his back-up, an upgrade over the veteran Mason.
Regardless of what his role with the Jets might be, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff should be able to sign Gustavsson to a fairly affordable contract. The former Maple Leaf is coming off of a two-year contract in which he carried a $1.35 million cap hit. Gustavsson has never started more than 42 games in an NHL season and his best statistical year was in 2009-10 when he was 16-15-9 with a 2.87 GAA and a .902 save percentage. He put up similar numbers last year, but his goals against was closer to three. If he gets much of anything more than what he was making, it’s an overpayment.
Although he’s young enough to make some improvements, I don’t see Jonas Gustavsson becoming the dominant starter he was hyped up to be when he left the Swedish Elite League. Chris Mason looks to be towards the end of his career, so Gustavsson could be a nice option as a younger back-up goalie that isn’t completely green. However, I don’t believe he is capable of filling Pavelec’s skates.
I’m not sure trading for the free agent rights of a goalie who is probably a back-up on most of, if not every team in the league gives Winnipeg any negotiating leverage with Pavelec, so all we can hope for is that the Jets are trying their best to get a contract worked out so that they can sign The Monster to be number two.
I’d feel pretty good about a 1-2 punch of Pavelec and Gustavsson, but if it’s a Monster-Mason combo, it could be a long and frustrating season for the Jets.