After the NHL Draft was over, Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and Allan Walsh, player agent for restricted free-agent goalie Ondrej Pavelec, sat in the stands at Consol Energy Center for a prolonged one-on-one conversation.
"We were actually talking about which restaurant has the best pizza in Pittsburgh," said Walsh.
Apparently, they found time during their tales of culinary adventure to solidify a critical contract for the Jets, who announced on Monday that Pavelec had been signed to a 5-year deal.
It's a contract worth $19.5 million, with an average annual cap hit of $3.9 million. It's a deal whose value is inflated because it eats up unrestricted free agency years. It's a deal that's likely to anger several general managers who have their own goaltenders to sign — look no further than the Boston Bruins, Vancouver Canucks and Montreal Canadiens.
So how did a goaltender that's 70-79-25 lifetime with a save percentage last season of .906 land this massive deal, with seemingly little leverage?
As far as term goes, it's what Winnipeg wanted.
Walsh said the Jets were after a deal of four or five years, with Pavelec three years away from unrestricted free agency. "If you're going to put in 'X' amount of dollars for the RFA years, it only makes sense to put UFA years in the deal as well," he said.
As far as money goes, Walsh said that Pavelec's salary will be comparable to other netminders in his age bracket and with his experience, especially ones due contracts this summer or in the near future.
"Let's say Carey Price is at 7 years and $6 million a year. Devan Dubnyk's going to hit $3 million. Tuukka Rask is going to hit $3 million. Cory Schneider is going to hit $3 million. There's a new wave of goalies taking over No. 1 starting jobs in the NHL from the older guard. Between those goalies, statistically and in experience at a No. 1 goalie, Pavs should be slotted under Price," said Walsh.
"The question was how far he should be slotted under Price; but he should be slotted ahead of Dubnyk, Schneider and Rask. That's the essence of the negotiation."
There were another aspects to the negotiation. The Jets acquired the rights to Jonas Gustavsson from the Leafs at the Draft, which may have upped the pressure.
Then there was the KHL, where Pavelec had a standing offer.
"It's no secret that we had a big offer on the table from a team in the KHL, but I don't really see it as something that came into play in the negotiation," said Walsh.
"Ondrej loves Winnipeg. It's a blue collar town. He sees a lot of similarities between Winnipeg and his own hometown."
Asking around at the Draft, Pavelec was a conundrum. No one could figure whether he was a good goalie on a bad team or an average goalie given too much credit for being decent on a bad team — or, perish the thought, a good goalie.
The Jets clearly view him as an essential part of their growth as a contender, making a 5-year commitment.
Wonder how the rest of the GMs trying to sign their young netminders feel about it?
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