The New Jersey Devils needed to re-sign two players who are restricted free agents ahead of next week’s training camp. The Devils re-signed one of them this morning. The team announced on their official website that they re-signed goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood to a three-season contract worth $8.4 million. Just before the team’s announcement, Pierre LeBrun tweeted out the terms; and Kevin Weekes had the scoop on it being a three-season deal just before 1 AM this morning. Corey Masisak of The Athletic tweeted out the salary breakdown of the contract: $1.475 million this season, $2.8 million next season, and $4.125 million in 2023-24.
In short, this is a fantastic deal. General Manager Tom Fitzgerald should be lauded for this contract.
Blackwood secured the #1 goaltender position last season. After an awful October, Blackwood emerged as one of the better goaltenders in 5-on-5 situations (the most common situation in hockey) in the entire league in 2019-20. Out of all goalies who played at least 1,000 minutes last season at Natural Stat Trick, Blackwood did the following in 47 games last season:
- Posted a 92.6% in 5-on-5 save percentage. This put him tied for 12th in the league with Corey Crawford, Robin Lehner, and Joonas Korpisalo,
- Conceded 85 goals against with an expected goals against of 84.74. Blackwood was not too ahead or behind the model.
- Stopped 87% of all high danger shots, which was the third best percentage in the NHL for those shots only.
- Held a GSAA of 8.41, which was the ninth best in the NHL. Blackwood’s GSAA/60 was 0.24, tied with Crawford, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Ilya Samsonov for 11th best in the NHL.
The 23-year old goaltender was one of the best parts of a terrible 2019-20 season for the Devils. His performances yielded stats that hang with some of the best goaltenders in the league (and, by extension, the world). And the Devils were able to retain him for less than $3 million dollars on average. That is an excellent bargain.
To be fair, there were other factors that led to the deal being as financially favorable as it is. For one, Blackwood was a restricted free agent without arbitration rights. Short of holding out, he did not have much leverage. For another, Blackwood has only played in 70 NHL games and his AHL numbers did not suggest that he could be a very good NHL goaltender, much less one whose “floor” is being an NHL average goaltender. Goaltending is subject to a lot of variance, so there is a bit of a concern that Blackwood’s 70 games so far may not be reflective of his whole career. The signs are very good that he is legitimate and I think it is if only for how he handled his business on a really crummy Devils team last season. That said, it is a factor that can (should?) keep a team from betting big on a goaltender.
All that being said, this contract is the best of both worlds. Blackwood gets a significant bump in pay now on what is effectively a bridge deal. He will be a restricted free agent in 2024 when the deal ends. Therefore, he can command a massive contract extension provided he performs as well as I think he can. Based on the salary breakdown that Masisak provided, Blackwood’s salary will increase significantly with each season. The $4.125 million he will get in the final season of the contract may set up what the next contract could be. As well give Blackwood and his representation an idea of what to ask for in 2024. I think he can play like a goaltender who is worth much more than that final season. I hope he does for the sake of the Devils.
The Devils clearly benefit by keeping Blackwood under $3 million on their cap. Other goalies in the league in a similar situation to Blackwood have received more, such as Tristan Jarry - who re-signed a three-season, $10.5 million contract with Pittsburgh and did not play that much better than Blackwood did last season. Fitzgerald saved his team money and cap space, which will allow him to make other moves elsewhere. Additionally, the Devils secure their active goaltenders for this and next season (Crawford is signed through 2022) for a total of just $6.7 million on their cap. Provided both goaltenders play like they did last season, the Devils will likely get a lot more value in the crease than what they are paying for. This is great business by Fitzgerald.
Speaking of winners, CJ is also a winner of this deal. Back in July, he wrote about what he thinks Blackwood’s contract should be. Based on the data he reviewed and presented, he concluded that Blackwood should be re-signed to a three season contract worth $8.55 million. Fitzgerald was able to re-sign Blackwood for just less than that. That is another marker of why this contract is so good as well as showing how prescient CJ was back in July. Good job, CJ.
Last and certainly not least, the Devils’ announcement of Blackwood returning on Twitter is something to behold:
Now that Blackwood is re-signed, the Devils have one RFA left to re-sign before next week’s training camp begins: Jesper Bratt. Per CapFriendly, the Devils now have about $14.395 million in cap space. They still have the most cap space in the NHL so there is no reason to worry about the cap right now. Hopefully, terms are being discussed by both sides such that a deal can be finalized and announced before camp.
Again, I am very happy about this announcement. Blackwood has shown a lot of positive signs of being a legitimately good goaltender. He was very good last season despite the rest of the 2019-20 Devils. Fitzgerald was able to retain him for three seasons with a very team-friendly contract. Even if the worst case scenario happens and Blackwood fails to perform, the contract is moveable. I do not think that will happen, though. I see no reason to not love this deal. (And I appreciate the team further confirming he is Mackenzie Blackwood and not MacKenzie Blackwood when he was drafted)
That is what I think. Now I want to know what you think. What do you think of Blackwood’s new contract? What is your reaction to the news? Do you think he will play up to his contract? Please leave your answers to the questions, vote in the following poll about the deal, and other thoughts about Blackwood in the comments. Thank you for reading.
The New Jersey Devils re-signed Mackenzie Blackwood to a 3-season contract worth $8.4 million. What do you think of the deal?
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I love it!
I like it.
I do not know / I’m in the middle on it.
I don’t like it.
I hate it!