The draft lottery has come and gone and for the 4th time since 2011 the Devils have moved up in the draft order, this time to 2nd overall. Personally, I would still be willing to move the pick for the right player, especially since moving up 3 spots just makes the selection that much more valuable. But, while I would be happy to see the Devils move the selection for a good, young, proven forward such as Meier or Tkachuk, I would not do so for any of the big name goalies speculated to be available.
It is well established that the biggest need for the New Jersey Devils is in the crease. I’m not here to argue against acquiring a goaltender, preferably someone with some track-record of success and durability. But, what Fitzgerald and co need to understand the risks of trading high-value assets for a big-name player in net. I believe they would be unwise to do so, even if it means ending up with a less proven/experienced option. To make my case, let’s first look at the players rumored to be available via trade.
On Friday, Mike discussed the possibility of going after one of the big name goalies speculated to be available. The headliner of that group is clearly Connor Hellebuyck. He is a top-5 goalie in the NHL and has been for a few years now. He falls into the category of players that have tricked their organizations into thinking their rosters are better than they actually are (yes I know the goalie is technically ‘part of the team’ but if you’re relying that heavily on any one player you’re gonna have a bad time). So why would it be a bad idea to trade for him? Well, and this will be a theme of this post, he’s going to be 29 at the end of the month. He probably does have some milage left and it seems he’s pretty durable, but there’s no guarantee that will be the case going forward. The way the goaltending position is played is incredibly hard on the body and very few players last into their mid-thirties and are still healthy and/or effective. Work on aging curves in goalies shows that 30 is where you really start to see a decline in performance at the position. And Devils fans don’t have to dig too far back to know how quickly things can go downhill for even an elite goalie after an injury or two. On top of this, the Devils have to think long-term in net. They need a solution now, but if they only think about now they’ll be in the same position 2-3 years from now dealing with the same problem. It’s possible that Hellebuyck will age like a fine wine and will remain at the top of his game for the next decade, but I wouldn’t bet on it. If the Devils move aggressively after a goalie it should be someone just entering the prime of their career, or at the very least right in the middle of it. The problem is, no one is giving any of those away, at least not good ones.
I have been using Hellebuyck as the example so far because of the ‘established’ goalies that could possibly maybe be available he’s the player I would most want the Devils to go after both because of his performance and durability. If you have to trade a first round pick + another high value asset for a goalie (and I agree with Mike that this is what it would cost) it should be Hellebuyck. On the other hand, John Gibson, once one of the most under-rated goalies in the league, has now been in decline for 3 straight seasons, both by traditional numbers and by GSAA. Robin Lehner, another potential trade target following his apparent disconnect ($) with our old pal Pete Deboer, has a history of concussions and just had season-ending surgery. At 30, he is older, less durable, and overall a less effective goalie than Hellebuyck (who isn’t?).
Once you get past those names you are looking at RFA goalies like Gorgiev, whose performance this season fits in well with this season’s group of Devils goalies and whichever of Vanecek/Samsonov the Capitals are willing to move. I don’t think anyone would argue for giving up the 5th or 2nd overall pick for any of those players.
The bottom line is there is no simple or easy solution at net. Unless something falls into their lap, the best the Devils can do for now is to use their cap-space to sign the best free agent goalie they can and to hope for a return to health/form for Blackwood. Meanwhile they have built up a decent prospect pipeline in net between Daws, Schmid, etc and hopefully with another year or two of seasoning at least one of their prospects can provide a strong internal option.
Do you think the Devils should consider moving their 1st round pick for a goalie? If so who would you like to see the Devils go after? Did I miss any big names when discussing trade targets? What do you think the Devils plan should be to address the goaltending position? Leave your thoughts below and thank you for reading.