Ondrej Pavelec must meet high expectations in 2012-13

By Chris Dubiel

After signing a five-year, $19.5 million contract, Ondrej Pavelec will have high expectations to meet as soon as he and the Winnipeg Jets hit the ice for the upcoming season. Pavelec had a pretty good 2011-12 season, but it wasn’t All-Star caliber by any means, as the Czech goaltender struggled with inconsistency in some stretches. However, many involved with the Jets considered him to be the team’s most valuable player and as it turns out, he was paid as such.

A cap hit of $3.9 million per year for five years certainly isn’t daunting, but we’re not talking small potatoes either. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff gave Pavelec his big raise with the hope of Pavelec becoming a bargain by the second or third year of the deal. Paying for potential is always a gamble and isn’t very good business, but Chevy feels confident in his investment. Pavelec is considered part of Winnipeg’s young “core” and has been identified as one of the players who will be a building block in the ascension of the Jets to becoming a contender.

With a shiny new deal and a lot of positive vibes coming from Jets brass, Pavelec has been sent a message that he will be expected to perform at a high level, which puts pressure on any NHL player. Add a big money deal to his D.U.I. incident in his home Czech Republic and the microscope lens Pavelec will be under becomes that much larger. Not only will the front office expect a lot of him, but the fans will as well. He will have to make up for his off-ice episode by playing at an elite level on it.

We are going to learn a lot about Ondrej Pavelec this season as he’ll have to work through a much higher level of scrutiny. The mental aspect of the game affects goalie’s the most, so this season is going to be very crucial for Pavelec.  If he can stay focused and continue to improve, there are reasons to believe Ondrej Pavelec can develop into one of the better goalies in the NHL.

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