The conversation surrounding the New Jersey Devils this offseason has been fixated on the NHL Draft and what the team will do with the second-overall pick. It seems they are down to Juraj Slafkovsky, one of the great defensemen in the draft, or trading it for an absolute superstar.
While getting another superstar forward would be nice, and it’s necessary to round out the top six, the one thing that’s still at the top of the priority list for the Devils is to get a new goalie. Right now, they still have Mackenzie Blackwood and Jonathan Bernier under contract for next season. Nico Daws was decent at times in the NHL, but he often looked overwhelmed and he sputtered in the AHL playoffs. They have options, but these aren’t playoff options unless proven otherwise.
The Devils need to look long and hard at who might be available this season. Bernier is likely going to miss at least the beginning of next season after he had hip surgery earlier this year. They can’t go into next season with Blackwood, coming off his worst season, and Daws, who really needs a full season in the AHL to develop.
The Devils could look at free agents and trade options. We once really liked Jack Campbell coming off a good season from the Maple Leafs, but then we looked a little deeper at his stats and realized maybe they should look elsewhere.
So, who might be the best options for the Devils to fix their goaltending position as the starter? Here are five very different players and situations that fit.
1. Darcy Kuemper
The Colorado Avalanche just made the Stanley Cup Final with Darcy Kuemper as the starting goaltender. He’s obviously going to make a bunch of money this offseason because every free agent coming off a Stanley Cup run makes a premium. This is especially true for a goalie who… wait. Who was the starting goalie in the Western Conference Final? Pavel Francouz took the Avs to the SCF after Kuemper went down with an injury. He’s a really good backup, but he’s still a backup.
Kuemper going down is actually good for the Devils’ prospects here. Kuemper is still the best option on the free agency market, but missing at the end of the Conference Finals while another player takes the team to the promised land doesn’t help the other player’s wallet. Kuemper is still the best option, but the options are extremely limited. It’s not like the market was last season when you can see multiple players getting starter’s money on the free-agent market.
This is obviously one of the Devils’ options that comes with no return compensation. They just have to give Kuemper money and cap space. That’s intriguing, but he will have other suitors. The Devils give him an interesting option, but if Francouz can give the Avs a Cup, then he likely has to find another home.