Connor Hellebuyck is a No-Brainer for New Jersey Devils…Mostly

Connor Hellebuyck #37 of the Winnipeg Jets tends net against the New Jersey Devils during the second period at the Prudential Center on February 19, 2023 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Connor Hellebuyck #37 of the Winnipeg Jets tends net against the New Jersey Devils during the second period at the Prudential Center on February 19, 2023 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Five years ago, a rumor of an all-world goalie like Connor Hellebuyck being open to an extension with the New Jersey Devils would have been laughed out of the room. Now, it is a reality. The Devils have turned around their fortunes mightily as they seem to have gotten over the rebuild hump. The Devils are now buyers after being sellers for the last decade, with the exception of 2018. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported that Hellebuyck might be an upgrade the Devils have considered.

It is a no-brainer to trade for Connor Hellebuyck. Mostly.

Hellebuyck is a Vezina Trophy winner who is entering the final year of his contract with the Winnipeg Jets. Currently making just over $6 million, it has been reported that he wants an Andrei Vasilevsky-like contract, which would pay him $9 million or more. The fact that Hellebuyck would consider the Devils as a long-term option is a massive win for them in itself.

This signifies that New Jersey is now becoming a destination for players of high caliber want to come to. Dougie Hamilton started the domino effect when he signed as an unrestricted free agent back in 2021. Ondrej Palat, while not on the same level as Hamilton and Hellebuyck, chose to come to New Jersey. Timo Meier now wants to work out a long-term extension to stay in New Jersey. These are all huge positives for the Devils.

Hellebuyck would provide an upgrade to what the Devils have in net now. Vitek Vanacek was good last season, but Hellebuyck’s numbers were better, and he has a better track record. We do not need to get into Mackenzie Blackwood, as bringing him back would probably be a mistake. Akira Schmid could use another year in the AHL, although he has shown brilliant flashes of what he could be in the future.

The elephant in the room for Hellebuyck is that he may or may not want too much money. The simple remedy to the “too much money” problem will figure itself out. The salary cap is going to go up. Mathematically it has too. Within two years, the salary cap should jump up at least $8-9 million, which is Hellebuyck’s rumored ask.

Hellebuyck is now 30 years old. This is the only negative about him. An eight-year extension would be a mistake as that would take him to 38 years old, which is an age most goalies do not get to. If Tom Fitzgerald can convince him to take a four or five year extension within the $8-9 million dollar range, this deal must be signed yesterday.

Fitzgerald can try and convince Hellebuyck that the lure of winning multiple Stanley Cups would be an incentive for him instead of trying to get as much money as possible. That is much easier said than done, as the NHL is a business, and players should want to get paid what they deserve. With that said, the Devils seem to have a trend going with players taking less money to bring in better players.

Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt, and Jonas Siegenthaler all have taken less money than they probably could have gotten on the market so that Fitzgerald can spend more on other players. Siegenthaler has said himself that he took less so that the Devils can get better. If the Devils could convince Hellebuyck to join that train, that would make them an unquestioned Stanley Cup contender.

What would the Devils give up? Their window to win is opening now. They have a deep prospect pool, so they can sacrifice the draft picks, which has been seen with the Meier trade. If the extension is in place, a first-round pick is a given. If it were not in place, they would not have to give up as much.

Maybe a player like Alex Holtz would interest Winnipeg since they seem to be entering their own rebuild. If the right extension is in place, a first, Holtz and a few other pieces like mid-round picks or mid-level prospects would be a price that Fitzgerald should be willing to pay. If the extension is too much or not what the Devils want long term, then it is understandable for them not to pull the trigger.

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However, the talent of a player like Connor Hellebuyck is too good to pass up. If the Devils want to not have a repeat of round two against Carolina, it is a guarantee that someone like Hellebuyck would be a difference maker. Fitzgerald has made a massive trade already with Meier which shows he is not afraid. Now is the time to do another one.