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Do the New Jersey Devils Waive Vitek Vanecek at Some Point This Season?

After a great 2022-23 regular season, Vitek Vanecek struggled in the playoffs, which has carried over into this season. Could the Devils waive him at some point for a few different purposes?

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at New Jersey Devils Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

2023-24 has been a mixed bag of a season for the New Jersey Devils. The team as of this writing still finds themselves well within the mix of teams trying to eventually qualify for a playoff berth despite looking like a ghost of last year’s team. The defense has been porous, the injuries, numerous and the goaltending is to a point where the Devils are winning games in spite of it rather than because of it. This has especially been the case in game’s started by Vitek Vanecek.

Vanecek was what the Devils needed most of last season, and he was one of the main reasons the team made it back to the playoffs. His playoff performance left a lot to be desired, however and he was eventually supplanted by Akira Schmid. There was hope Vanecek would at least return to league average this regular season, but alas, his playoff trend has continued. Vanecek currently sports a paltry .884 save percentage, which ranks him 77th out of 87 goalies to appear in at least one game this season. What’s worse? Probably his -11.7 goals saved above average, which is second worst in the league between Carolina’s Antti Raanta and Toronto’s Ilya Samsonov. Now why do those two names sound familiar? What might they have in common?

Oh yeah. Their respective teams put both of them on waivers this season.

The Devils are the only team with a bottom three goalie in the league that hasn’t demoted them at some point this season. I know part of this is to attempt to manage waiver requirements for Schmid and Nico Daws, but is it worth it? I know the team wants one of the younger goalies to still be sent to Utica without risk of losing them on waivers, but honestly those two might be the best two goalies right now. If the Devils want to be competing night in and night out, it’s Vanecek who should be waived for possible assignment.

Now, I think if the team does waive Vanecek, it’s done for a few different reasons. Firstly, it could be done in an attempt to help him right himself. His game hasn’t been what it was last season, and by getting him AHL minutes, it might help him rediscover it. Part of a goalie’s game is their confidence, and anyone who has watched Vitek can see that his is shaken; playing some games in Utica against lesser competition could help to fix that. As an additional bonus, he could spend some time with a goalie coach not named Dave Rogalski.

Secondly, the Devils could see what they have in a Daws/Schmid tandem. I know neither of them have been stellar this year either, but both have out played Vanecek. If the Devils don’t see a feasible move to acquire a goalie from outside the organization, why not at least play the best two within the organization? Schmid was even able to steal a game or two earlier this season, and Daws needs a larger sample size to truly see how effective he can be. Let Vitek go down and get reps while the big club takes a look at what the younger goalies can do.

Of course there’s the slight possibility that another team would claim Vanecek if the Devils try to send him down. It would seem, however, that if other teams weren’t interested in Raanta or Samsonov, they probably won’t be interested in Vanecek either. Raanta may be older, but he came at a much lower cap hit, and Samsonov is in a similar age and salary bracket to Vitek. Both of them cleared waivers, so I expect the same would happen if the Devils were to make this move.

Now for the big question: will the Devils actually waive Vanecek and roll with Schmid and Daws? I have to answer that while I think they should I don’t believe they will. Unless something changes with management’s philosophy, I think they’re prioritizing waiver flexibility right now, especially since neither of the waiver eligible goalies has been leaps and bounds better than Vanecek. I do think there has to be something going on behind the scenes with Tom Fitzgerald trying to acquire a goalie at a respectable price. Unfortunately, I do think this also means that for now we will see the Devils continue to trot out a confidence lacking Vanecek at least every third game.

If the Devils don’t make a trade and they don’t waive Vitek, hopefully they can at least continue to win in spite of his performances. Otherwise, if he doesn’t find his game, the Devils could see themselves fall in the standings and watch their 2023=24 playoff hopes disappear.

What are your thoughts on the possibility of the Devils waiving Vitek Vanecek; do you think it could help him rediscover his game? Would you be comfortable with the Devil icing a Daws/Schmid goalie duo? Is the possibility of Vanecek being claimed a concern to you? Is a trade the only hope the Devils have to fix the issues in net this season? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!