2. Akira Schmid
This might be the most underrated storyline of the season. The New Jersey Devils spent all offseason enthralled with rumors of goaltending trades and signings. Nothing came to fruition, and now Connor Hellebuyck is off the table entirely. That leaves the Devils with Vitek Vanecek and Akira Schmid.
Vanecek was quite good in the regular season last year, but he was awful in the playoffs. That’s where Schmid took over, helping the Devils beat the New York Rangers in the playoffs, securing a successful season. That was the first time in a long time Devils fans could end a season with a positive outlook.
Despite Vanecek’s performance in the regular season, Schmid is likely the goalie of the future. Even before his stellar playoff performance, he was probably the Devils best goalie in the regular season. He had the lowest goals-against average, the highest save percentage, and the best goals-saved above average of any Devils goalie despite playing just 18 regular season games.
If Schmid comes in and takes the starting job, how will the Devils want to pay him? Even the average starting goaltender is getting $5 million per season. Will the Devils be willing to do that? We can see Fitzgerald doing his best to lock up the one goalie that’s worked for him, but there are issues with goalies in general. This one is intriguing, but we expect nothing to get done until next offseason.