DALLAS — They didn’t bring home any hardware, but the Winnipeg Jets still had a solid showing at Wednesday night’s NHL awards, which were handed out on the Las Vegas Strip.
Goalie Connor Hellebuyck finished second in Vezina Trophy voting as the league’s top goaltender, coming up just short of claiming the prize won by the Nashville Predators’ Pekka Rinne. Hellebuyck was on the ballot of 26 of the league’s 31 general managers, including seven first-place votes, 14 second-place votes and five for third place. Rinne finished with 129 points, Hellebuyck had 82 and Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning had 21.
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was a close second when it came to the league’s top executive award, which was claimed by Vegas Golden Knights architect George McPhee. Cheveldayoff was on 35 of 39 ballots cast by other GMs, league executives and media. He received eight first-place votes and a total of 107 points. McPhee finished with 149 points, while Tampa GM Steve Yzerman was third with 46 points.
The other Jets finalist for an award was captain Blake Wheeler for the Mark Messier Leadership Award. It was claimed by Vegas defenceman Deryk Engelland for how he helped navigate his expansion club to a record-setting debut campaign, while also dealing with the devastating fallout in the city of the Oct. 1 mass shooting.
The Philadelphia Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds was the other runner-up.
Wheeler also finished eighth in Hart Memorial Trophy voting as the NHL’s most valuable player, which was won by Taylor Hall of the New Jersey Devils. Wheeler appeared on 32 of 164 ballots cast by the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PWHA). He received one first-place vote, two for second, one third, six fourth-place votes and 22 for fifth.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice ended up fourth in voting for the Jack Adams Award as top bench boss, which was won by Gerard Gallant of the Golden Knights. Maurice was on 22 of 108 ballots cast by the NHL Broadcasters’ Association, with 12 second-place votes and 10 for third place.
Jets forward Kyle Connor finished fourth in Calder Memorial Trophy voting for top rookie, which was claimed by Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders. Connor was on 114 of 164 ballots cast by members of the PWHA, with 22 second-place votes, 35 for third, 28 fourth-place votes and 29 for fifth.
Wheeler and Hellebuyck were also voted in as second team all-stars, a first-time honour for both players. Hellebuyck finished behind Rinne in goal, while Wheeler was deemed the best right-winger in the league not named Nikita Kucherov of Tampa.
Patrik Laine finished fourth in right-wing voting.
● ● ●
Every team announced their home opener on Wednesday, with the Jets kicking off the 2018-19 season in St. Louis on Thursday, Oct. 4, against the Blues.
Winnipeg will draw the curtains on a new campaign at Bell MTS Place when they host the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, Oct. 9.
The full 82-game schedule will be released today.
Two other Jets games are already known. Winnipeg will play a home-and-away set with the Florida Panthers on Nov. 1 and 2, in Helsinki, Finland.
Winnipeg’s seven-game pre-season schedule was released last week, kicking off Sept. 17.
● ● ●
The Jets took care of some additional housekeeping on Wednesday, signing assistant coach Jamie Kompon to a two-year extension.
Kompon, 51, has been with the Jets the last two years, joining the club for the 2016-17 NHL season after serving as head coach and GM of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks from 2014-16.
The Thunder Bay native also spent two years as an assistant with the Chicago Blackhawks, capturing the Stanley Cup in 2013.
With the new deal, Kompon will remain part of Maurice’s staff through the 2019-20 season, a group which also includes assistant coaches Charlie Huddy and Todd Woodcroft, video coach Matt Prefontaine and goaltending coach Wade Flaherty.
● ● ●
Finally, the NHL offered some salary cap clarity on Wednesday as commissioner Gary Bettman said the maximum limit is expected to fall between US$79 to US$80 million.
That’s good news for teams such as the Jets, who will need to find room for a number of new contracts for pending restricted free agents including Josh Morrissey, Jacob Trouba, Hellebuyck and Adam Lowry.
There were projections the cap could rise as high as US$82 million. The salary cap was US$75 million for the 2017/18 season.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.