The New Jersey Devils are facing a very important offseason. There are huge decisions to make if Tom Fitzgerald is going to make this a long-term competitor. After finally hitting the right note to make this a playoff team, the Devils are now trying to do it again and again and again.
We’ve seen many teams get their first taste of playoff success and do everything the team can to make it turn into a dynasty overnight. If it backfires, it could send a team back into a precarious spot where a rebuild or at least a retool might be necessary. The risk of that is not worth the reward of possibly making the right move when the team is this close.
This isn’t to say the Devils shouldn’t make any moves. However, they need to make only the right moves. Fitzgerald is facing a huge offseason, where he can become a Devils legend or a goat, and not in the Martin Brodeur way. Here’s the main things Fitzgerald should avoid.
1. Overpaying for a Goalie
The Devils finally got average goaltending this season thanks to the quick moves of Vitek Vanecek. Yes, we said average goaltending. The Devils do not have an elite goaltender in Vancek. He’s perfectly fine to get a team over the hump and to the playoffs. Once the playoffs start, that’s an issue.
Vanecek is likely not going to be the goalie that wins a Stanley Cup for the Devils. There is too much playoff history there to think it’s going to drastically change. Akira Schmid is the Devils best bet. He’s done it in the regular season and he’s done it in the playoffs. Was his series against the Carolina Hurricanes good? No, but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. He has the chops to eventually become a really good starter in this league.
It’s that reason why the Devils shouldn’t overreact and go all in on a goalie this offseason. There are players who are available. Connor Hellebuyck would be great, but he is going to cost a fortune for just one year of services, then his contract is going to be a killer as it starts with his 30-year-old season. John Gibson is available, but nobody really knows if he’s that good anymore. Frederick Andersen, Jonas Korpisalo, and Tristan Jarry are all free agents. That’s intriguing, but long-term deals might kill the development for the younger goalies. If something makes sense to bring an upgrade to the Devils for the short term arises, then the Devils should jump on it. However, a long-term deal for a goalie below superstar level presents itself, the Devils should stand pat.