Everyone in the hockey discourse has been harping on one thing about the New Jersey Devils; the goaltending. Yes, former Devils champion Mike Rupp is pushing for the Devils front office to go out and acquire Connor Hellebuyck out of Winnipeg. There’s a lot of solid evidence why the Devils should make a move on Hellebuyck. There are also other options, including some that are already in-house.
Akira Schmid vs. Connor Hellebuyck
Akira Schmid in the playoffs finished in the top eight with a 2.4 GSA Expected. He went head-to-head with Igor Shesterkin and won. That’s an incredible accomplishment. (Numbers via MoneyPuck)
Hellebuyck posted a -2.9 GSA Expected. He gave up nearly three goals more than he should have with the Jets’ defense in front of him. So the jury isn’t out on Connor in the playoffs… yet on the contrary, if Hellebuyck had a more reliable defense that could have gotten pucks out of the defensive zone quicker maybe he could have reversed that number or better.
Hellebuyck is a UFA after this season, and both the New Jersey Devils and the Winnipeg Jets are up against the salary cap, making it more likely that both teams move big contracts to make a deal work. The most logical deal includes adding Vitek Vanecek along with sweeteners depending on what the going market reaches. Right now, the Devils first-round pick in 2024 still has conditions on it from the Timo Meier trade. The Devils need to assess their asset capital before discussing this deal.
Given the fact that Hellebuyck is 30 years old, don’t be surprised if the Devils move in a different direction. Karel Vejmelka and Logan Thompson could both make sense because of the salary cap and trade market pricing. What would that look like?
Vejmelka vs. Hellebuyck
Honestly, Hellebuyck is a major get if you get him for a friendly deal (both trade package and future contract). The New Jersey Devils will likely explore the price for Karel Vejmelka. He is not as risky and has more of a window in their prime to help improve the New Jersey Devils in net going forward. His numbers were very stellar for a team that was not very good with an 11.1 GSA Expected at 14th overall in the NHL regular season.
The New Jersey Devils have a strong defense that is younger and more mobile the Winnipeg’s or Arizona’s. also mixed in with stronger stay-at-home defenders. Ryan McGill controlling that defense helps improve the Devils’ goaltending. Vejmelka is three years younger than Hellebuyck but is under contract until July 2025. This would give the Devils more time to negotiate a more favorable contract on both ends.