It’s no secret that the Devils are in the market for a backup goaltender. Former star goalie Cory Schneider was horrendous this campaign, recording a 3-6-2 record, with an awful .887 save percentage. In the AHL, Schneider did not fair much better, as he went 7-7-0 with a .903 save percentage. This makes the 4th straight year where Schneider has been ineffective, as you can see in the stats attached below.
So, with Schneider not looking like a reliable backup goalie for the future, it seems like the Devils will need to explore other options on the market/internally. Today, we will focus on external options - players who could potentially join the Devils, and actually help the team.
Category 1: Should Not Sign
Braden Holtby: No. Just no. Braden Holtby, similar to Schneider, was not effective at all in the previous season. Despite a deceptive 25-14-6 record, Holtby recorded an awful .897 save percentage, and ended up getting replaced by Ilya Samsonov midway through the season. To make it worse, Holtby is likely to command a large salary, and hope to win the starting goaltending spot for himself. As such, the Devils should avoid Holtby like the plague.
Robin Lehner: Not on the Devils’ side as much, but I doubt that Lehner would accept an offer to become Mackenzie Blackwood’s backup. Lehner has been amazing the past two seasons, and I see no reason for him to settle for a backup position.
Jimmy Howard: Imagine Schneider, but potentially more mediocre.
Category 2: Legitimate Options
Aaron Dell: At one point in time, Aaron Dell was making serious strides as a potential starting option goalie for the Sharks. That time is long past now, but Dell has established himself as a legitimate goalie option in free agency. In the previous season, Dell recorded a 12-15-3 record, with a .907 save percentage. While not great by any means, Dell did perform significantly better than Schneider did, and is only a few seasons removed from a .931 save percentage.
At this point, it is unknown what Dell is searching for in his next contract. He’s unlikely to return to the Sharks and also has not proven himself capable of a bigger role. As such, Dell seems to be a reasonable option for the Devils to target, if they want an upgrade from Schneider that does not threaten Blackwood’s spot in goal.
Cam Talbot: After a recent stretch of mediocre seasons, Cam Talbot emerged again with the Flames, recording an solid 12-10-1 record, with a .919 save percentage. Furthermore, he was excellent in the playoffs, recording a .924 save percentage through 10 games.
Unfortunately for Talbot, he’s a 33 year old goaltender, coming off a horrible season prior to the current campaign with Edmonton. As such, he’s unlikely to see any team commit to him long-term, and would likely have to settle for a backup role regardless of the current campaign. As such, if his price is low enough, I wouldn’t mind for the Devils to sign him up for the coming season.
I’m not entirely sure if my opinion is the unpopular opinion, but I don’t necessarily think the Devils need to explore free agency for a backup goaltender. Yes, Cory Schneider is a shell of his previous self - but are the Devils going to compete anyway? Less insane growth from Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt and Ty Smith, I don’t see the Devils emerging as a legitimate contender in the coming season regardless of who their backup goalie is. As such, I wouldn’t mind holding onto Schneider for one more season and cutting that contract one year shorter, before then eating a cap penalty if the Devils feel like they can compete. Furthermore, if Schneider doesn’t work out and has to be sent back to the AHL, the Devils have goaltenders internally like Gilles Senn who could emerge as legitimate backup goalie options, and I’d rather they use him then spend 2.5 million on a Cam Talbot or Aaron Dell. I don’t know though - I could be overthinking this.
Am I completely wrong? Are there any other options you’d like the Devils to explore? Let me know in the comments below, and take care.