New Jersey Devils: Is John Gibson A Better Option Than Connor Hellebuyck?

Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson (36): Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson (36): Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Jersey Devils will be tied to every goaltender that joins the market until they find a long-term option. They’ve been tied to Connor Hellebuyck since he mentioned he doesn’t want to go through a rebuild during the exit interviews. There’s a report another superstar goalie, John Gibson, requested a trade (despite it being refuted, but that’s beyond the point).

There aren’t many teams that need a starting goalie. The Ottawa Senators signed Jonas Korpisalo. The Pittsburgh Penguins brought back Tristan Jarry to a surprising contract. Carolina brought back its tandem, and the Toronto Maple Leafs are doing it too it seems. The Devils are up against Buffalo and maybe Montreal or Los Angeles for a superstar goalie.

With so few teams going after goalies, the Devils can pick which player they target. Carter Hart might be available, and he makes the most sense based on his age, but the Philadelphia Flyers are not trading him to the Devils. So, Gibson and Hellebuyck make the most sense at this moment.

We’ve covered the Hellebuyck situation multiple times. Most know my personal take on this. He’s a great goalie, but a goalie in his 30s can fall off at any point. One hip injury ruins his career, similar to what it did to Cory Schneider. When a goalie is looking for north of $9 million a year, this is what has to be considered. While the Ilya Sorokin contract likely set the market for Hellebuyck, it’s still risking $8.5 million per season of cap space on what you hope is a superstar.

Gibson was once as good as Hellebuyck. He’s younger than Hellebuyck and signed for four more seasons at just over $6 million. If the Anaheim Ducks are desperate, the Devils could get them to eat $1 million of that contract. Would the Devils rather have Gibson at $5 million or Hellebuyck at $8.5 million long-term?

It’s a little more complicated than that because Gibson has been ROUGH for a few years. He had the highest xG against at 5v5 last season. Juuse Saros had the highest. Saros’ goals saved above average was 21.14. Gibson’s was -5.03. Even though Gibson saw a crazy volume of shots and high-danger chances, it eventually got to him every time, bringing him down below an average goalie.

Can he be a great goalie again without this insane workload, or did the Ducks ruin him? It’s an interesting question. It’s one the Devils need to answer if they are going to target him.

Hellebuyck is the better bet here. Gibson is too big of a risk with four years left on his contract. The Ducks might learn from the Arizona Coyotes (the Canucks Oliver Ekman-Larsson buyout limit their ability to take on money from other contracts). That will make them weary of retaining any money in this deal.

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Even if the Devils just get Hellebuyck as a pure rental, it takes a lot of the risk out of it. Gibson is ALL risk. It’s not worth it for the Devils, even if it would cost less. High-risk, high-reward plays are not good when Tom Fitzgerald did such a masterful job building this roster from the ground up. He has Jack Hughes, Timo Meier, Jesper Bratt, Dougie Hamilton, and Nico Hischier (thanks Ray) signed to long-term deals. Getting a goalie that’s the wrong fit could ruin it all. The Devils need to make the perfect decision if they aren’t just going to go with Akira Schmid.