NHL Rumors: Jets have to pay way up or lose Ondrej Pavelec

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com
Pavelec played in 68 games for the 'Peg last season. (Getty Images)

You'll recall last week a report surfacing about Winnipeg Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec having a big offer on the table from a KHL team.

It came a little out of left field (why do things never come out of right field?) in that the Jets had to have it written in ink that Pavelec was going to be their goaltender for the next few years given his restricted free-agent status. Typically, teams aren't too worried about their RFAs leaving, it doesn't happen often.

But it's not every day that a team in the KHL is doing the poaching. And the price escalating. From TSN insider Darren Dreger:

Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is focused on his collection of pending restricted and unrestricted free agents. Of note, goaltender Ondrej Pavelec is considering interest from the KHL. Unless the soon-to-be restricted free agent gets a multi-year term at $4 million per year (or higher), there's a strong possibility Pavelec bolts for Russia.

So let me get this straight: The Jets are in a situation where they have to pay $4 million a season to keep Pavelec or trade him to another team that will have to do the same? Sorry, but I don't consider a guy who is coming off his most complete season to date where he went 29-28-9 with a .906 save percentage and 2.91 goals against average to be the 13th best goalie in the league. That's where a $4 million cap hit would rank him among goalies.

Maybe there is a team -- perhaps the Jets -- that will see it as being a reasonable price tag. Perhaps they will project out and remember that Pavelec was just 24 this last season and he has shown flashes of being a good goalie, including some very solid stretches of hockey this season. But he's been seeing regular action in the NHL for three seasons now and has a career GAA of 2.99. It's not a gamble I'm taking if I'm a GM.

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Surely the Jets are going to continue to talk with Pavelec through the next two weeks and maybe they'll test the waters on the trade market to see if any team would be interested in paying Pavelec what he wants to say no to the KHL. But GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has to be preparing a Plan B with free agency less than two weeks away.

May I suggest Josh Harding, who should come at a cheaper price than what it would reportedly take to keep Pavelec? Granted, he did play in front of a stingier defense with the Wild, but he's still an intriguing goalie for a starting spot somewhere.

The question is how intriguing is Pavelec? Is he $4 million a year intriguing? Nothing left to do but wait and find out. We should have an answer in the coming weeks.

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