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Can the Devils still add a difference-making goaltender?

The Devils are tight against the cap. They’re also, arguably, a goaltender away from winning a Cup. Do they have enough room left to get the last big piece they need to win the Stanley Cup this season?

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NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Winnipeg Jets at Vegas Golden Knights
The Connor Hellebuyck rumors....they’re not going away, people
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

“The New Jersey Devils are a goaltender away from winning the Stanley Cup.”

Expect to hear that sentence a lot throughout the summer, during the 2023-24 season, and for however long it takes for the Devils to address the hole they have in net. It could not be more clear what those people are saying. The Devils are a goaltender away from winning a championship.

What’s that you say? The Devils are set in net with Vitek Vanecek and Akira Schmid? They’ve moved on from Mackenzie Blackwood and brought in some organizational depth in Erik Kallgren? It would stand to reason the Devils are done with their work in net for the summer then. It would also appear that due to the realities of a hard salary cap, even if they wanted to upgrade, they’re limited in what they can do.

Incorrect, my friend!

While there are limitations, the Devils are really only limited by the willingness of potential partners, how far they’re willing to go and their own creativity to finding a solution. The Devils have certainly done due diligence on checking in on one of the top options, so its safe to assume they’re checking in on others as well and they’re open to the idea of improving upon what they have.

There are avenues to improving the goaltending this season, and that might wind up being the difference whether or not this team wins a Stanley Cup. Let’s take a look at a few of these options, see which ones make the most sense for not only the Devils but their trade partner as well, and if they could feasibly pull this off.

A Brief Salary Cap Refresher and Why the Devils Might Want to Upgrade In The First Place

The Devils have $5.607 million remaining in cap space with one RFA to sign in Kevin Bahl and a couple roster spots expected to go to minimum salary players such as Alexander Holtz, Graeme Clarke, Nolan Foote, Simon Nemec, or any potential minimum-salary UFA or PTO signings in training camp.

Let’s operate under the assumption that the Devils re-sign Kevin Bahl for 1 year, $900,000. Using CapFriendly’s Armchair GM, put whatever combination of him and the aforementioned players you choose on the 23-man roster. Bahl doesn’t have arbitration rights and isn’t in a position to get much more than that, so I’m assuming he’ll take a bit of a haircut like everyone else on the Devils.

Factor in potential performance bonuses for players such as Mercer, Holtz, Nemec, Clarke, Luke Hughes, and Akira Schmid and the Devils will have roughly $2M of cap space remaining going into the upcoming season, give or take a couple hundred thousand dollars here or there depending what combo of players I just listed makes your Opening Night roster.

The numbers are what they are, which brings me to the all important question that inspired this article.....why would the Devils want to upgrade in net?

Wait, what?

Did you see the playoffs? If you did, you’d recall that Vanecek got lit up every time he was called upon and finishing the postseason with an .825 save percentage. That’s simply not going to cut it. The standard has to be higher than it was previously and last year was not good enough, which is why the Devils really can’t be taken seriously as a legitimate contender until they get their franchise goaltender. Vanecek was perfectly fine in the regular season, but the expectations need to be higher now. They need to be in the goaltender business. Again.

“But Jared”, you might point out.....”Akira Schmid was great against the Rangers”. That is true. It’s also true that he wasn’t so great against the Carolina Hurricanes. I’m not overreacting to what Schmid did one way or the other. Obviously he has potential, as we saw that. I believe he is the best goaltender on the roster right now. But the results are what they are. We saw him get lit up against Carolina. It happened. Can’t ignore it. I’m not necessarily saying to get rid of Schmid or anything like that, but when Vezina-caliber goaltending is available right now and the biggest weakness on the team is the uncertainty in net, you’d be foolish not to at least explore that.

“But the Golden Knights just won with Adin Hill. You don’t NEED a franchise goaltender.”

The margin for error is so much larger when a team has a franchise goaltender vs riding a hot hand like Vegas did with Hill. It’s the reason why flawed Rangers teams make as many deep playoff runs as they do with Igor Shesterkin and Henrik Lundqvist before him. It’s why a talented Tampa team makes as many deep runs as they do with a future Hall of Famer like Andrei Vasilevskiy. It’s why Montreal and Florida can get to a Cup Final when Carey Price and Sergei Bobrovsky find their form. Its why when you go back to the previous era, some combination of Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, Ed Belfour, and Dominik Hasek were seemingly in the Stanley Cup Final every year. When you have that no doubt about it, unquestioned, #1 guy in net who can stand on his head and post a .930, it makes it a lot easier to get through to the next round even if a few skaters get into a slump. Schmid showed flashes of that with a .951 in five games against the Rangers. Coincidentally, he was the franchise goaltender for a week and a half, and it helped them overcome a lot of Devils skaters not being able to solve arguably the best goaltender on the planet in Igor Shesterkin (who posted a .931 over seven games in a losing effort).

This is why the Devils should be in the goaltender business. At a bare minimum, they need to avoid the type of abysmal performances Vanecek delivered in the playoffs. The floor of what can be deemed an acceptable postseason goaltending performance needs to be higher than it currently is. Good luck if you can predict who the next Adin Hill or Jordan Binnington might be, let alone wishcast the Devils into trading for that guy in just the right year. If you can do that, can you also send me the Powerball numbers? My email is in the Masthead.

Do you trust Vitek Vanecek to EVER play like a Shesterkin, a Vasilevskiy, or heck, an Adin Hill in a game of that magnitude? After how shell-shocked Vanecek looked throughout the postseason, I have my doubts. Do you believe Schmid can do it again and it wasn’t a one-off? If you said yes to the second question, I’d think you’re a little delusional but I can see where you’re coming from. If you said yes to the first question, you’re not being honest with yourself.

With that out of the way, let’s get into what options not only make sense for the Devils, but might actually be somewhat realistic.

The “Connor Hellebuyck as a rental” option

Even with some money coming off the books and the cap expected to increase by $4M next year, the long-term cap situation for the Devils is tight moving forward after the contract extensions to Timo Meier and Jesper Bratt. The Devils have $64.56M already committed to 2024-25, with $57.88M and $54.73M on the books for the following two seasons after that. With those kind of commitments on the books through at least 2026-27 and the need to leave some meat on the bone for future deals for Dawson Mercer, Luke Hughes, and others, it might not make the most sense to earmark an Ilya Sorokin-like contract for a player like Connor Hellebuyck. As great as the 3-time Vezina finalist and one-time winner Hellebuyck is, he’s about to enter his age 30 season and has made no secret about wanting “Vasilevskiy-money”. There’s a valid argument to be made that extending Hellebuyck at all, let alone to the kind of money we’re talking about, is a bad idea.

Fair enough.

How about Connor Hellebuyck as a rental?

There is merit to the idea that Hellebuyck would be worth renting. Obviously, he’s an elite-level talent right now. The Devils have a need right now. That’s the biggest reason why the Devils should be interested in him. The acquisition cost should also theoretically be lower to acquire the pending UFA if he’s not coming with an extension in hand.

Proposed trade: Devils trade Vitek Vanecek and a conditional 2024 1st round pick to Jets for Connor Hellebuyck (50% retained). If the Devils 2024 1st round pick goes to the Sharks to complete the Timo Meier trade, Winnipeg receives the Devils 1st round pick in 2025.

Why would the Devils do this: The obvious answer. It’s the massive upgrade from Vanecek to Hellebuyck! We know how good Hellebuyck is so we don’t need to beat that dead horse. The hidden gains in this trade are the Devils shedding the final year of Vanecek’s contract, freeing them up to go in a different direction in 2024-25 when they’re again looking for a goaltender to pair with Schmid. The Devils would also trim about $320,000 off of their books this season, which doesn’t sound like much, but it does give them a little more wiggle room if they want to make a minor move elsewhere.

Why would the Jets do this: Hellebuyck has been adamant that he will not sign another contract with the Jets, and while they should rebuild, they don’t seem to have any intention of doing so at this time. Vanecek is by no means a star goaltender, but he is a competent starter who at the very least shouldn’t sink the Jets hopes of making the playoffs. At a time where it seems like everyone wants out of Winnipeg, Vanecek has an extra year of control and an extra year he can stick around. That, along with the first round pick, gives the Jets options. They can use that pick as ammunition to bring in someone else if they hope to stay in contention. Conversely, if the Jets decide 12 months from now that they do need to rebuild, they now have the extra 1st and would presumably flip Vanecek down the road for another asset.

Likelihood this happens: 30%. While Tom Fitzgerald isn’t in the business of trading futures for rentals, he’s smart enough to realize what a massive upgrade in net this would be for a team that is probably a goaltender away from a championship. Giving up another future first round pick stings, but it is worth it for difference makers and Hellebuyck is exactly that. The Jets list of suitors will likely be limited, especially with other teams balking at Hellebuyck’s contractual wishlist after this season, and a 1st and Vanecek is probably one of the better offers they’re going to get if Hellebuyck is indeed a pure rental.

The “Juuse Saros extended rental” option

The Nashville Predators are a franchise in transition. New GM Barry Trotz has already put his stamp on the team with the moves he’s made. The Predators made six picks in the first three rounds of last week’s NHL Draft. They have 11 picks in next year’s draft and already have an extra first round pick in 2025. They also moved on from long-time centers Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene this offseason.

Juuse Saros would be an attractive piece for any contender needing a goaltender. He has two seasons remaining at a cap-friendly $5M AAV, and is a Vezina-caliber netminder himself with two Top-Four finishes the last two seasons. For this reason alone, the acquisition cost should be higher than it would be for Hellebuyck. The biggest question for the Predators is....should they trade him?

It’s certainly possible that Nashville chooses not to. They might view their situation as more of a retool than a rebuild. They might not be as sold on Yaroslav Askarov being their goaltender of the future as they were when they drafted him. Askarov was reportedly “in play” at the draft as the Predators tried to move up into the Top 5. He might only be “in play” for franchise-defining trades such as that one and not necessarily for the Alex Holtzs of the world.

Still, there are plenty of connections between the Predators and Devils organizations where they might be able to come up with a deal that makes sense for both sides if Nashville decides to make a move. Tom Fitzgerald and Barry Trotz have a long history together, and new Predators head coach Andrew Brunette was in the Devils organization last year. The teams have plenty of history connecting with each other on trades, from PK Subban to Vern Fiddler.

Proposed Trade: Devils trade Vitek Vanecek, Graeme Clarke, Alexander Holtz, and a conditional 2024 1st round pick to the Predators to Juuse Saros. If the Devils 2024 1st round pick goes to the Sharks to complete the Timo Meier trade, Nashville receives the Devils 1st round pick in 2025.

Why would the Devils do this: For the same reason they’d make any goaltender trade. The upgrade in net. . The true ‘gets’ for Nashville would be a first round pick and a good but not great prospect in Holtz, plus whatever extra picks they turn Vanecek and/or Clarke into down the road.

Why would the Predators do this: It really comes down to what Brunette thinks of Holtz as a player long-term. Brunette had a front-row seat this past season as Holtz spent a significant amount of time as a healthy scratch before ultimately being demoted to Utica. If he thinks Holtz is a worthwhile piece to get back as the Preds rebuild, I don’t think the Devils would let that be the holdup in getting two years of Saros. If they don’t like Holtz, the trade would be harder to complete although the Devils still have the right combination of picks and prospects to build an enticing package. As for the rest of the package, Vanecek gives the Predators a suitable bridge goaltender until Askarov is NHL-ready while Clarke is a close to NHL-ready prospect himself who should ultimately settle in as a 3rd liner if he makes it.

Likelihood this happens: 15%, but with variance one way or the other. The Predators don’t have to trade Saros. They could theoretically sign Saros and trade Askarov if they think this is more of a retool. Or they could keep both goaltenders.

That said, Saros is a good enough goaltender where he can single-handedly prevent a team from bottoming out and getting true, franchise-changing players at the very top of the draft.

Barry Trotz is going to have plenty of rope as the Predators GM to do whatever he wishes. Remember, the Predators started play in 1998 and David Poile was the only GM the franchise had ever known until his retirement last week. Trotz himself coached the team for the first 15 seasons of their existence. If anyone can survive a prolonged rebuild, its Trotz.

If the Preds decide to shop Saros, the Devils should be able to build the right package and get their guy for two playoff runs at a good price.

The “Boston can’t possibly fit both Ullmark AND Swayman moving forward, right?” option

The Boston Bruins cap situation is tight, but not unmanageable.

Boston has three RFAs with arbitration rights in Jeremy Swayman, Trent Frederic, and Ian Mitchell. They currently have $6.204M in cap space, but that is before signing those three players to new deals. That’s also before we consider how they can try to squeeze Patrice Bergeron and/or David Krejci on to the roster if they decide they want to put off retirement for one more season and run it back after a historic regular season that almost assuredly left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth in Boston.

The good news for the Bruins is that they have a variety of expiring contracts that they may be able to dump in a hurry if need be. Jake DeBrusk and Matt Grzelcyk don’t have trade protection. Derek Forbort can only block trades to three teams.

One area where the Bruins could look to save a few bucks is with their goaltending. Linus Ullmark, the reigning Vezina-trophy winner, is set to make $5M AAV the next two seasons, while Jeremy Swayman is five years younger and is likely Boston’s future in net. Neither player will come cheap via trade, and Ullmark recently acknowledged that the elite pairing probably isn’t sustainable moving forward.

Proposed Trade #1: Devils trade Seamus Casey, Nico Daws, and a 2024 conditional 1st round pick to the Bruins for Linus Ullmark. If the Devils 2024 1st round pick goes to the Sharks to complete the Timo Meier trade, Boston receives the Devils 1st round pick in 2025.

Proposed Secondary Trade #1: Devils trade Vitek Vanecek to the Kraken for Joey Daccord and a 4th round pick.

Why would the Devils do this: The Devils take on $1.6M in salary cap space upgrading from Vanecek to Ullmark in exchange for a prospect who is three years away from having any impact on the NHL team, a future first round pick we can likely say similar things about, and a decent dart-throw in Daws. The Devils get two potential Cup runs in the short-term with the possibility of Ullmark extending down the road at a price that should come in well below what the Isles just paid Sorokin. Daccord is more of an NHL tweener and organizational third goaltender, but his $1.2M AAV cap hit can be completely buried if necessary and his salary is high enough he shouldn’t be auto-claimed if he goes through waivers. This would give the Devils a Ullmark-Schmid tandem for the next two seasons they should be comfortable going to battle with.

Why would the Bruins do this: The Bruins remove Ullmark’s cap hit entirely without taking on additional cap space in the process the next two seasons. This is key for them. They pick up a future first round pick, the Devils best prospect outside of Hughes/Nemec, and a decent goaltending prospect in Daws who does already have NHL experience. As long as Boston is ok with Daws from a health perspective, they can afford to be patient and wait for him. This frees up the Bruins to extend Swayman themselves and worry about whatever other cap gymnastics they’ll need to go through if/when Bergeron or Krejci decide to return.

Why would the Kraken do this: The Kraken are stuck with Phillip Grubauer’s albatross of a contract and while he was ok in the playoffs, they’ll want a little more consistency across an 82 game season in net. Seattle also lacks the prospect pool to deal from to get Ullmark for themselves unless load up heavy on future picks. Vanecek is a decent short-term upgrade that doesn’t change their long-term trajectory.

Proposed Trade #2: Devils trade Alex Holtz, Seamus Casey, Nico Daws, and a 2024 conditional 1st round pick to the Bruins for Jeremy Swayman. If the Devils 2024 1st round pick goes to the Sharks to complete the Timo Meier trade, Boston receives the Devils 1st round pick in 2025.

Why would the Devils do this: The Devils pay an even bigger price to get Swayman, who they’d have control of for a minimum three seasons. Swayman has earned a healthy raise, but certainly not Sorokin money, so the Devils would be free to hammer away at a fair second contract to keep him around for the foreseeable future and potentially buy out some UFA years. Swayman is also young enough (24 years old) that he would fit with the Devils core moving forward.

Why would the Bruins do this: The Bruins give up the younger goaltender in exchange for an additional good prospect in Holtz, who probably plays on the Bruins roster right now. If Holtz lives up to his potential, its a huge get for the Bruins in their middle six.

Likelihood any of this happens: Somewhere between 0-10%. The biggest hurdle for the Bruins to clear might be whether or not they trade one of their goaltenders to arguably their biggest threat in the Eastern Conference. Boston is likely more inclined to trade Ullmark over Swayman, and they’ll be more inclined to send either one somewhere out west where they are less likely to hurt the Bruins in the short-term. This is also the worst-case scenario where they’re even considering trading one of them in the first place, which is probably unnecessary if Bergeron retires. There are no free agent centers that can replace Bergeron and no viable Plan B in the short-term, and the Devils don’t have a center to offer the Bruins. Boston’s best chance of winning games without Bergeron is lights-out goaltending and they’d have the space to accomodate both for at least another season while they figure out a long-term plan at cener.

From a Devils perspective, I’d like to know more about what exactly Linus Ullmark’s injury was in the playoffs that was deemed “debilitating” and impacted his “mobility and technique”. After Jonathan Bernier and Cory Schneider had their careers derailed by hip injuries, Ullmark is a hard “No, absolutely not” for me if his hips are a concern.

The “Would the Flyers trade us Carter Hart?” option

The one where the Devils get their guy from a rebuilding division rival? Sure. Let’s get weird.

After the Flyers acquired Cal Petersen as part of the return in the Ivan Provorov trade, many started to speculate that Carter Hart could be the next Flyer out the door. And while that hasn’t quite happened yet, the Flyers have seemingly come to grips that it is time to rebuild. Hart is still young enough that he could conceivably be part of the next good Flyers teams several years from now, but he’s also is the right combination of talented and has enough team control where moving him could land the Flyers even more draft picks, prospects, and young players that they sorely need.

The Flyers, if they’re being honest with themselves and where they are in their timeline, should probably be aiming for the 2027-28 season for when they’ll be good again. By then, top prospect Matvei Michkov should have come over, while their bad contracts like Ryan Ellis, Cam Atkinson, Cal Petersen, Rasmus Ristolainen and dead cap charge for Kevin Hayes will all be off the books. Hart’s presence on the roster might be enough to keep them picking in the 6-10 range every year when they need to be picking Top 5. A quick glance at Hart’s save percentage would say that a .907 isn’t anything to write home about, but he did save 10.3 goals above expected and he should be better on a better team.

Proposed Trade: Devils trade Arseni Gritsyuk, Ethan Edwards, a conditional 2024 first round pick (you know the deal with this by now), and a 2025 3rd round pick for Carter Hart (50% retained)

Why would the Devils do this: This is closer to the “Just go get this year’s Adin Hill” scenario that one might find preferable.

The Devils would now be three deep in net with Vanecek, Hart, and Schmid in some order for the rest of this season. Schmid could be sent down to the AHL which will give the Devils a little more breathing room under the cap. He can then be recalled for a playoff run. Hart theoretically has more upside than Vanecek, who would likely be traded after the 2023-24 season, and might have more upside than Schmid as well. That’s debatable, but what isn’t debatable is that Hart has far more NHL experience than Schmid. If the Devils are happy with Hart’s performance, he’ll likely be part of the solution going forward and shouldn’t cost an obscene amount of money to extend. He is an RFA with arbitration rights after this upcoming season, but I would think he could be signed to a deal similar to the one Joonas Korpisalo just signed in Ottawa this past week.

Hart hasn’t exactly been Connor Hellebuyck the last two seasons with a .906 save percentage, but he did have 10.3 goals saved above expected last season and played well at times. One could argue that if you put him on a team with a better defense and better roster overall, he could elevate his game and be closer to .915 goaltender he was his first two seasons.

Why would the Flyers do this: If the Flyers are trading Hart, its likely because they want to completely bottom out while picking up assets for down the road. They’d be able to run some combination of Petersen, Felix Sandstrom and Sam Ersson in net while waiting on Gritsyuk to come over and Edwards to ripen further between college and whatever time he might need in the AHL if he’s ever going to become anything. A first round pick is likely going to be required in any Hart trade and the extra third round pick is close to the cost of doing business for Philadelphia to retain half of Hart’s contract the rest of this year.

Likelihood this happens: Maybe 1 in 1000.

There might be some trepidation with the Flyers, a franchise that has historically struggled to find a franchise goaltender, trading the closest thing they’ve had to one. Add in the fact that they’d be trading him to a division rival that is 90 miles away? That might be a tough sell to a jaded fanbase in a notoriously tough sports town. If GM Daniel Briere is wrong and Hart becomes the franchise goaltender who leads the Devils back to the Stanley Cup, he might never live it down in that city. It’s one thing to trade Provorov in division to another bad team. It’s another to trade a goaltender to a team that might be a goaltender away from a championship.

The Flyers probably shouldn’t care about trading him in division. If they’re going to make this trade, they need to be concerned with getting the best return they can. But optics are a thing and do matter to an extent.

For that reason alone, I doubt the Devils and Flyers can connect on a Hart trade.

Add in the fact that the Devils might be hesitant to trade pieces they like in division. Add in the fact that its debatable that Hart is enough of an upgrade where this is even worthwhile for the Devils. Add in the fact that the Hockey Canada investigation is nearing its end and teams in general are being cautious with anyone even remotely linked to that. I don’t know if Hart is involved or not with the Hockey Canada scandal. We’ll have to wait for the facts to come out, but I can’t see any team trading the kind of assets were talking about for him until that situation is resolved and his name is cleared.

The “Wait, why would the Knights make Logan Thompson available?” option

By now, you know the story of the 2022-23 Vegas Golden Knights in the playoffs. Starting netminder Robin Lehner was injured going into the season and wound up missing the whole year. Next man up Logan Thompson took the reins and played his way into the All-Star game, but was injured for the playoff run. It wasn’t the backup of the last several years Laurent Brossoit or trade deadline acquisition Jonathan Quick who led Vegas to the was journeyman Adin Hill.

Lehner’s career is in doubt at the moment as he continues to sit on LTIR, while Brossoit and Quick left Vegas in free agency, leaving Hill and Thompson as the duo in net for Vegas. Vegas rewarded Hill with a 2 year deal at $4.9M AAV and he is seemingly the guy in net moving forward for them, leaving Thompson as an overqualified understudy, right?

Not really.

Thompson is signed at a very team friendly $766,667 AAV the next two seasons. Even for a team like Vegas that is as ruthless as any moving on a player the second they are no longer of use to them, there’s no reason for them to trade an All-Star goaltender like Thompson despite rumors suggesting he might be available. Thompson is probably the better goaltender of the two and at worst, there should be a 1A/1B split in Sin City.

I don’t doubt Weekes’s report that teams checked in with Vegas to do due diligence, but I can’t imagine the response was anything other than “Thanks, but no thanks”. Still, to quote the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, “Everybody’s got a price”! So let’s see if there’s one that makes sense for Vegas to at least think about parting with Thompson

Proposed Trade: Devils trade Akira Schmid for Logan Thompson

Why would the Devils do this: Thompson is a little more experienced at the NHL level than Schmid and his salary for next season is locked in. Schmid will be due a raise of some sort next season.

Why would the Knights do this: The short answer is they don’t.

The long answer is they still don’t.

The longer answer is that maybe they galaxy-brain themselves into believing Schmid has higher upside than Thompson and that’s worth gambling on if/when Hill turns back into a pumpkin. That they are getting the younger player in the deal. That while Schmid is slightly more expensive now and is due a new contract sooner, he might be cheaper in 2025 and beyond than Thompson who will hit UFA at that time. For a team that is perpetually over the cap, there is value in that, I suppose.

Likelihood this happens: 0.000001%. There’s no reason for the Knights to trade Thompson unless the Devils are trading Vegas players they shouldn’t be trading and this deal is way more complicated than it has any business of being. There’s also little reason to think Thompson is actually an upgrade over Schmid, which was the whole point of this article. Thompson might be good, but is he “difference-making” good? Maybe, but its not a certainty. Even if he is, Thompson will almost assuredly be in Vegas for at least the next two seasons.

The “We’re not still pretending John Gibson is good, are we?” option

Man, I hope not, because the answer is no.

Frank Seravalli said on a podcast that John Gibson asked for a trade from the Ducks. That the goaltender went as far as to say “I am not playing another game for the Anaheim Ducks.” Gibson’s agent Kurt Overhardt put out a scathing statement refuting Seravalli’s claims. Seravalli came back with receipts for Overhardt. I don’t know who is telling the truth here, but I do know this....despite having one of the lowest payrolls in the NHL, the Ducks would like an out on the John Gibson contract that has been a disaster since the day it was signed.

Gibson has four years at $6.4M AAV remaining on his deal, which is obviously a no go for the Devils at that price. Gibson has had a .902 save percentage over the last four seasons, which is worse than what the Devils have just had the last four seasons in Mackenzie Blackwood at .904.

It would be easy to look at Gibson’s stats and say “Of course they’re bad, he’s on a lousy team”. This is true. However, Gibson’s goals saved above expected the last four seasons are -11.5, -14.3, -7.4, and -18.0. Gibson might have been let down by bad teammates, bad defense, bad coaching, and some combination of the three, but he deserves plenty of blame as well.

Still, is there an avenue where Gibson at 50% retained makes sense? What if the Devils could find a third team and knock that number down to $1.6M AAV? Would that be worth their effort?

Proposed Trade: None. No. Stop it.

It’s not just the cap hit. I also want no part of Gibson at the term remaining. MAYBE if he was bought out, which is unlikely with how much term is remaining, I could potentially be talked into a 1 year, $1.5M type of deal to see if he can regain his form. But at things currently stand, Gibson is a hard no for me.

Likelihood this happens: 0% as things currently stand

Final Thoughts

The purpose of this exercise was to see if there is a way the Devils can bring in a goaltender who can help them win a Stanley Cup this season with the little bit of cap space they have remaining. Because say it with me.....the New Jersey Devils are a goaltender away from winning a Stanley Cup.

The short answer is that yes, there are ways they could do a deal for someone like Connor Hellebuyck, Linus UIlmark, or Juuse Saros and make it work cap-wise this season and next season. If you are creative enough, there are ways to work around the salary cap. If you are bold enough, you would be willing to take a shot on a rental who can put you over the top or surrender a legitimate prospect for someone with a little more control. If you are brave enough, you’ll accept that this trade might be the difference between winning a championship and coming up short. Having prospects and picks is all well and good, but banners hang forever. For a team that is a goaltender away, its worth it.

That’s how I see things. Perhaps you see things different. Feel free to leave a comment below and thanks for reading.