The New Jersey Devils have a desperate need for a reliable goalie. There are few superstar goalies that are available. The Calgary Flames got lucky by getting one in Jakob Markstrom on the free agency market. Andrei Vasilevskiy is never leaving Tampa unless they one day have to tear down the dynasty. Igor Shesterkin will haunt the Devils for years (unless they keep scoring five goals in one period). The Devils could break the bank for Darcy Kuemper in free agency, but they will have a lot of competition to do that.
One superstar goalie nobody is talking about is the Winnipeg Jets’ Connor Hellebuyck. There might be a reason nobody is talking about him. Maybe the Jets hang up the phone on anyone who even considers mentioning his name. However, what if nobody is talking about him because nobody asked? The Jets would never shop Hellebuyck, but if another team pursues him, would they say absolutely not?
The former fifth-round pick is having a somewhat down season. He’s not in the tank like superstar goalies we’ve seen in the past, but his .911 save percentage is his worst since his first full season as a starter in 2016-17. He’s played 62 games this season, and he will approach or even surpass his career-high of 67 starts in a season. He’s still a reliable starter on a nightly basis.
Hellebuyck ranks 15th in goals saved above average. So even at his worst, Hellebuych is still in the top half of the league as a starter. Last season he was ninth in the league and two seasons ago he was second in the league in GSAA (all according to Natural Stat Trick). Does that show a worrisome decline or is that just a sign of the randomness that is goaltending?
This is the only reason the Jets might consider moving their superstar goalie. He’s 28 years old, so he’s getting closer to that 30 mark, but goalies who are the best of the best tend to keep their best foot forward if they are the right player. It’s a roller coaster ride. Just ask Marc-Andre Fleury. However, it’s worth it for the right guy.
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The Devils would have to trade an uncomfortable amount to make this deal work. The Jets are asking for assets like their first-round pick, Alexander Holtz, and/or Dawson Mercer. That seems too expensive a price for a player who has a microcosm of risk involved.
Hellebuyck’s contract is very good. He has two more years are $6.16 million in cap hit. That’s a much easier cap hit to swallow than a lot of goalies in the league who may become available. The Devils would be happy to pay that for a superstar goalie.
The issue here is the price going to the other side. The Devils should really consider a “wow” offer to the Jets for Hellebuyck. Anything short of Holtz, Mercer, or a first-round pick. The Devils really can’t afford to lose the firsts just yet. However, they can give them any of the young players in the bottom six, any of the really good players in Utica, even star overseas prospects like Shakir Mukhamadullin and Arseni Gritsyuk, and multiple other draft picks. They could even throw in Mackenzie Blackwood into the deal so the Jets still have a starting goalie.
It’s hard to find the right deal to make this work for both sides. This is a very complicated trade, but as long as the price isn’t off the wall, the Devils should make it happen.