Kevin Weekes of ESPN took to Twitter to post a selfie video that he took in front of what I assume was his washing machine (or his hotel’s?) to announce a trade. The New Jersey Devils have traded goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood to the San Jose Sharks for a 2023 sixth round pick. This was confirmed by Ryan Novozinsky of NJ.com and, later, officially announced by the New Jersey Devils. A surprisingly fitting locale for Weekes to announce the deal as Blackwood was essentially washed in New Jersey.
That may seem harsh but Blackwood’s time in New Jersey has been one of unrealized hope and ugly goaltending stats. The ability seemed to be there in 2018-19 when he posted a 91.8% overall save percentage and a 5.21 GSAA in 23 games. Likewise in 47 games wherein he posted a 91.5% overall save percentage and a 7.34 GSAA in 47 games. Then came injuries, illness, a refusal to get a vaccine, getting that vaccine, and a lot of ugly goaltending for the next three seasons. 2021 saw him play 35 games and just a 90.2% overall save percentage and a -6.33 GSAA (this is bad). He could only play in 25 games in 2021-22 and he posted an 89.2% overall save percentage and a -11.03 GSAA in those games. Likewise last season, he posted an 89.3% overall save percentage and a -6.08 GSAA in 22 games. This also shows that Blackwood’s decline has been real and poor for the team.
The Devils gave him chances. Blackwood is athletic and has a large frame. He can be quick. But he has struggled throughout his career when it comes to consistency. Blackwood is capable of a monster shutout one night and looking like a sieve the next and downright mid in the following game. What good is being athletic if it is not used all the time? Or if he has lapses in judgement or execution? Blackwood is 26 with 152 games played so it is not like he needs time and experience to improve. He is who he is at this point. Better health would help but it is possible the injuries have undercut his ability to tend the goal. These issues and his poor performances for the last three seasons led to a quiet end: Blackwood not even being dressed in the playoffs as the Devils went with Akira Schmid and Vitek Vanecek. It was the right call given Schmid’s heroics in the first round and his superior play in spot duty while Blackwood was hurt in 2022-23. The torpedo sank Blackwood’s chances of getting another one in Newark.
This decline and Schmid’s ascendance meant Blackwood has become the third goalie in a two-goalie tandem. While teams can and do work with three goalies, they usually do not have a high-priced third-stringer. The 26-year old Blackwood is a pending restricted free agent now that his three-season contract worth $8.4 million is about to end this week. According to CapFriendly, a qualifying offer to retain his rights would cost $3.36 million. (Note: Due to when he signed his contract, the qualifying offer is 120% of his cap hit, not 100% of his base salary in 2022-23, which was $4.125 million.) Blackwood has not played like a goaltender worth $3.36 million (or $4.125 million) in any of his last three seasons. And it is unlikely he will figure it out and rebound. He has not done anything like rebounding in the last two seasons after that contentious 2021 campaign. It was entirely possible that General Manager Tom Fitzgerald would not even qualify Blackwood, letting him go free as an unrestricted free agent. Possibly preferable than trying to hope Blackwood rebounds yet again, which would risk losses as well as fewer games played for Vanecek and Schmid.
To that end, the Devils managed to get a little something for the pending restricted free agent. I do mean a little. A sixth round draft pick is a long shot at best in a draft. It is a little more than nothing. It is also potentially more than the return that Philly received for dumping Kevin Hayes (with 50% retained salary) onto St. Louis as San Jose’s sixth in 2023 (164th overall) this season can be earlier than St. Louis’ sixth in 2024. To that I say: Ha ha ha.
So it goes. I wish Blackwood the best as he tries to rebuild his career out West. But a breakup of some kind was coming. This is the most beneficial one for the Devils, even if it is a dumping of someone’s signing rights. More praise is deserved for Fitzgerald for getting a something at all for the RFA-to-be as well as confirming that the goaltending tandem for the Devils will be Vanecek and Schmid. There will be no temptation to get Blackwood going. That helps the Devils going forward. Fitzgerald is having himself a good offseason so far. He turned pending free agents Severson and Blackwood into draft picks and he re-signed Erik Haula and Jesper Bratt to reasonable contracts. That said, Fitzgerald’s work will only continue. There is a NHL Draft in the next two days, qualifying offers due Friday, Free Agent Frenzy on Saturday, and plenty of not-so-easy decisions to make throughout this week and beyond.
Now I turn to you, the People Who Matter. What do you make of this trade? Are you just happy MacKenzie Blackwood is gone from the organization? What can Blackwood do for San Jose? What will be the next move for the Devils? A Yegor Sharangovich trade (a sign and trade, even)? A new contract to retain a free agent? Something else entirely? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the trade in the comments. Thank you for reading.