This may have fallen under the radar with the New York Rangers decision to fire everyone on Wednesday, but the New Jersey Devils signed goaltending prospect Nico Daws to an entry-level contract. Daws was playing overseas this season after the OHL decided to only play in certain areas of Canada. That left Daws with nowhere to go, so he signed a deal with ERC Ingolstadt in Germany.
Daws was not bad in the German league, putting up an .898 save percentage in 10 starts. It’s not the ideal number Devils fans want to see, but he was dealing with a very strange situation beyond just playing through a pandemic in a new country.
Just a season ago, Daws was the league leader in save percentage for the OHL’s Guelph Storm. That’s what led to the Devils selecting the overaged prospect in the third round of the NHL Draft. It was a pick that was mostly celebrated at the time. The future of the Devils’ goaltending position was still up in the air, but the team always seemed to pick a goalie in the draft, so there are plenty throughout the organization.
Daws immediately became the best goalie prospect behind Mackenzie Blackwood. Blackwood is still very young, and this is his net for the time being, but to put someone with the skill and ability of Daws behind him for the next few years is a positive development. This is obviously a great move for the future, but what the Devils do with the goalie position right now is still a little in flux.
As of right now, the Devils have Blackwood, Aaron Dell, and Scott Wedgewood on the NHL roster. Then, they add Evan Cormier, Gilles Senn, and Jeremy Brodeur from the AHL roster. Dell and Wedgewood are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, and one could be brought back, but it seems unlikely that the Devils would make them the full-time backup after inconsistent seasons.
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Senn and Cormier is where things get interesting. They are both restricted free agents this offseason, and they are both coming off down years. Senn has an .891 save percentage, the worst he’s put up since playing for HC Davos back in 2015-16. Senn is 25 years old. While goalies do take longer to develop, it’s hard to imagine Senn is going to make some kind of remarkable turnaround at this point. Cormier is having an even worse season with an .882 save percentage. His time with the Devils organization may also be over.
The Devils have two other intriguing goalie prospects outside the organization. Cole Brady is playing well for Arizona State this season. He has a .910 save percentage despite getting drilled with shots on a seemingly nightly basis. The never-ending legacy of Akira Schmid also reared its head after a great season for the Sioux City Musketeers in the USHL. He’s currently dominating in the playoffs, only allowing one goal on 55 shots against. He also led the league in save percentage, and it wasn’t particularly close.
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On top of all this, it’s pretty clear the Devils need a veteran backup to play in the NHL next season. The Devils were hoping Corey Crawford would be that veteran presence, but he abruptly retired during training camp. There are some intriguing names like Jaroslav Halak, Freddy Anderson, and James Reimer on the free agent market. The Devils will likely sign one of them to a deal, but they could also bring one of Brady or Schmid in for a test in the AHL if they decide to let both Cormier and Senn go.