Just after noon today, the New Jersey Devils announced another player has been re-signed for the 2021-22 season. This player is goaltender Scott Wedgewood. As the team stated on their official website, Wedgewood has been retained on a one-season, two-way contract. The team did include his salary details; he will be paid $825,000 when he is with the NHL team and $375,000 when he is with the AHL team in Utica.
Wedgewood was signed by the Devils last October 2020. He was brought in as a veteran option as a #3 goaltender should Mackenzie Blackwood or Corey Crawford get hurt or are unavailable to play. I figured that most of his season would be with Binghamton. In the wake of Crawford’s retirement, Wedgewood was given more of a chance as the Devils organization took some chances on the waiver wire with Eric Comrie and Aaron Dell. Wedgewood’s return to the organization did end up with him essentially taking the #2 spot on the depth chart.
After all, Wedgewood appeared in 16 games last season and started 15 of them - second in both categories to Blackwood. Wedgewood posted a 90% overall save percentage in those 16 games with two shutouts. Two shutouts he absolutely earned as they were both low scoring victories: a 2-0 win over the Islanders on January 24 and a stunning 1-0 win over Boston on March 7. Those games were clearly the high point of his 2021 campaign. The other 14 games did not go so well as the 90% overall save percentage would suggest. It was not necessarily all Wedgewood’s fault. He did post a 91% in even strength situations. In 5-on-5 play, per Natural Stat Trick, his save percentage was 91.3% with a Goals Saved Above Average of -1.47. Both stats are pretty good given how bad the Devils were in 2021 with their calamitous-at-worst defense. Combined with how poorly Dell did, Wedgewood was not a disastrous backup goaltender.
That said, this signing does not really address the Devils’ need for a proper backup (or a #1A goalie, if you are so inclined) to Blackwood. The proof is in the details. Wedgewood was offered and agreed to a two-way deal. This is usually a tell that the player understands that they may end up in the AHL for a good part of the season. That they are willing to take less money to do so usually means they understand their situation in the pecking order. If the Devils truly saw him as someone who can backup Blackwood for the whole season, then they would have at least offered a one-way contract to ensure he gets paid the same rate no matter where he ends up. Unless GM Tom Fitzgerald fails to sign another goaltender before the start of the 2021-22 season, I would pencil Wedgewood in as the #3 goalie in the system and for starts with the Utica Comets. (And #4 if Akira Schmid or Nico Daws perform really well early on with Utica.) You might see him in New Jersey but likely only if Blackwood or the Goalie To Be Determined is unable to play. I think that is fine. I do not know if throwing Schmid and Daws into the deep end of pro hockey right away makes sense for them or the Utica Comets, anyway. Having someone with experience there may be beneficial for all involved.
The signing also makes Wedgewood eligible for the goaltender exposure requirement for the Seattle Expansion Draft later this month. Per the NHL’s own rules, each team must expose at least one goaltender who is signed for next season or a goaltender who is a pending restricted free agent for the 2021-22 season. The Devils already had a goalie to meet that second requirement in Evan Cormier. However, there is a catch. Per the NHL’s rules, if the team exposes a pending RFA, then they must tender them with a qualifying offer to expose them to the draft. With Wedgewood signed, New Jersey is now free to not tender Cormier a qualifying offer and let him become an unrestricted free agent on July 28. This may be a real possibility as Cormier has struggled at the minor pro level since starting it in 2018-19. And there is no benefit to having two goalies meet the exposure requirements when each team only needs to expose one. The Devils will undoubtedly protect Blackwood regardless of today’s news. Wedgewood re-signing with New Jersey now gives Fitzgerald an option with respect to Cormier’s future. This news may end up being bad news for Cormier.
All told, there is not much to dislike about the deal. He is a veteran depth goaltender. He plays like a veteran depth goaltender. He is getting paid near the NHL minimum and he is on a two-way deal so he will not even be paid that if or when he is with Utica. Tom Fitzgerald still needs to sign a proper backup goaltender to support Blackwood for New Jersey. The only party that may be unhappy about this news could be Evan Cormier. That remains to be seen.
That is how I see this goaltending situation given today’s news. Now I want to know how you see it. What do you think about the Devils bringing back Wedgewood on a two-way contract? Do you think he will spend more time with Utica or New Jersey next season? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Wedgewood in the comments. Thank you for reading.