Laurent Brossoit is riding the wave.
The Winnipeg Jets backup goalie is experiencing a run like never before, unbeaten in regulation time in his 10 starts (9-0-1), with his lone loss coming in relief of Connor Hellebuyck in a game against the Calgary Flames after entering in the first period and inheriting a 3-1 deficit.
The only thing close to this took place when he backstopped the Edmonton Oil Kings to the Western Hockey League title in 2012, earning playoff MVP honours after going 16-4 with a 2.04 goals-against average and .933 save %.
The biggest difference between now and that time is that Brossoit was the undisputed starter in those days and was essentially playing every other night – which made it easier to stay in a rhythm.
“I’ve learned to deal with it and look at it in a different light,” Brossoit said after Friday’s 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings. “I try not to look at it in a statistical way. It’s cliché to say, but I just focus each day by day.”
Hellebuyck will be back in goal as the Jets host the Anaheim Ducks.
Brossoit, who is 9-1-1 with a 2.10 goals-against average and .939 save %, has provided stability to the backup position this season and the one-year, one-way contract for $650,000 he signed on July 1 represents incredible value for a guy making the league minimum.
Regardless of how things go during the second half for Brossoit, it’s obvious he’s put himself in a strong position to garner a raise.
How big can the Jets afford that raise to be?
That’s a far more interesting question to explore.
Given the salary-cap challenges the Jets are about to face with a number of pending restricted free agents, there’s not a great deal of wiggle room when it comes to how much money will be allotted to the backup goalie position.
Hellebuyck is the clear-cut starter and he’s being paid like one after signing a six-year deal worth $37 million last summer.
There was a signing by the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday that most certainly caught the attention of Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, with backup goalie Casey DeSmith inking a three-year extension that carries an average annual value of $1.2 million.
When Penguins starter Matt Murray battled through a pair of injuries and a tough start, DeSmith kept his team in the playoff race, going 12-7-4 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .924 save %.
Now, he’s been rewarded for that – though Murray has found his form, is the No. 1 guy and that doesn’t figure to change anytime soon.
The major difference when comparing the two situations is that Murray has endured some injury issues and Hellebuyck has not.
DeSmith is receiving some security and keeping himself in a situation where the Penguins continue to highly competitive.
Might Brossoit consider a deal that’s similar?
Only time will tell.
Brossoit is scheduled to be a restricted free agent July 1 and if he takes a one-year pact, he would be eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2020.
Timing is everything in this business and nobody would blame Brossoit if he prefers to sign a one-year deal.
Would he prefer a little more security or does the spectre of providing more of a challenge for a starting job loom larger?
It’s a question many goalies in Brossoit’s position have to consider.
Look at Carter Hutton for example.
He spent a good chunk of his career as a backup, much of it in the Central Division with the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues.
But after playing in 32 games with the Blues last season and posting a 2.09 goals-against average and .920 save %, he parlayed his strong play into a three-year deal worth $8.25 million ($2.75 million average annual value) to become the starter with the Buffalo Sabres.
It’s important to remember Hutton had played 137 NHL games before hitting the jackpot in free agency, both in terms of opportunity and security.
To this point, Brossoit has 39 games on his NHL resume and he’s less than a year removed from a demotion to the American Hockey League after the Edmonton Oilers claimed Al Montoya off waivers.
He’s clearly trending upward and playing the best hockey of his career, though the sample size remains relatively small.
Brossoit’s impact on the Jets is anything but.
“He’s just a wonderful teammate. Supportive and so even-keel and driven to get better,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “He’s been just a big part of our team.”
For some goalies, finding a good system and fit is incredibly important – especially early in their careers.
Brossoit is likely to receive between 20 and 22 games this season, barring something unforeseen.
That will represent a career high for him.
It will also likely leave him wanting more.
Because he will have arbitration rights this summer, the Jets would probably love to sign Brossoit to a multi-year extension for somewhere around the $1.2 million DeSmith received.
Things can change quickly for a goalie and not always in a good way.
That’s why a two-year deal might make the most sense for both sides.
Brossoit gets a raise, some security and a chance to continue to push and support Hellebuyck, while the Jets would receive a more than capable backup at a price point they can absorb.
Laurent Brossoit, Winnipeg Jets
Chosen by the Calgary Flames in the sixth round, 164th overall, of the 2011 NHL Draft
Signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $650,000 with Jets on July 1
Age: 25 (turning 26 on Mar. 23)
2018-19 stats: 11 GP, 10 starts, 9-1-1 record, 1 SO, 2.10 GAA, .939 save %
Career NHL stats: 39 GP, 30 starts, 16-14-3 record, 1 SO, 2.70 GAA, .912 save %
Casey DeSmith, Pittsburgh Penguins
Undrafted, signed as a free agent on July 1 of 2017 to a two-year deal worth $1.35 million ($675,000 AAV)
Signed a three-year extension worth $3.6 million ($1.2 million AAV) on Jan. 11, 2019
2018-19 stats: 26 GP, 22 starts, 12-7-4, 2 SO, 2.47 GAA, .924 save %
Career stats: 40 GP, 33 starts, 18-11-5, 3 SO, 2.45 GAA, .923 save %