With yesterday’s announcement that Jonathan Bernier would be missing the remainder of the 2021-22 season, the New Jersey Devils also explicitly stated that MacKenzie Blackwood has the reigns in net. Much as I like Blackwood, his current season had actually harmed his case for being the team’s solution in net to bring the Devils back to relevance. In his 20 contests so far this season, Blackwood has posted a paltry .895 save percentage. Even more concerning, in terms of advanced statistics, he is fourth worst in terms of goals saved above average.
When Bernier’s injury seemed concerning, the Devils went out and acquired Jon Gillies; his track record indicates him being more of a stop-gap acquisition rather than a key piece for the future. Combine that with the fact that the Devils are seemingly being patient with the development of Nico Daws and Akira Schmid (as they rightfully should be) and the goaltending situation right now seems somewhat bleak. As I see it, the Devils have two options, with the first being that they ride out the season with Blackwood (who rumors are swirling may be playing hurt) and Gillies and see what happens. This seems to be management’s plan right now, especially with them publicly placing their confidence in Blackwood.
The other option would be to attempt to spend some assets on a goaltender who the team feels could compete with Blackwood for playing time as Bernier was supposed to. This option would be more preferable if the Devils want to attempt to make a playoff push this season, but that’s not guaranteed even with a stronger effort in net. There are a couple of drawbacks to this option, one of the being that the Devils would need to part with players/prospects/picks to acquire a goalie of substance. Also, the question of who is realistically an option and available rises up here, especially at this point of the season.
While this is probably a move the Devils should make, it appears unlikely, however it certainly could be possible. Even as we just approach the midway point of the season, there are a few teams that are well outside of the playoff picture that may feel they are in the rebuild phase and will be wanting to sell off some assets prior to the trade deadline. The Devils should be on the wire calling around to see who has available capital in net that not only are they willing to part with, but also who could at the very least challenge Blackwood for the starter spot. While trading picks and prospects is not ideal with Jersey’s Team in the position they’re in, continuing to send out a goalie who is posting sub-.900 performances more often than not is an even worse option.
Will the Devils move assets to improve their situation in net during this season? As I said before, it is unlikely when they just went out and got Gillies for free. Should they go out and spend if someone is available though? Again, as I see it, yes because if the team wants to truly compete for at least a playoff position as they say they do, then they need to make the needed moves to get them there. Right now, after 34 games in this season, going out and getting another strong option in net is the needed move. Otherwise, be prepared for 48 more games of at least one soft goal going into the net, as has seemed to be the norm on most night during this campaign.
What are your thoughts on the Devils’ goaltending situation; should they go out and acquire a player? Do you think they should see if Gillies can push Blackwood? Would you rather see Schmid and/or Daws get a few games to attempt to prove/establish themselves at the NHL level? Do you think the Devils stay status quo in net until this summer? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!