Despite New Jersey Devils’ Goalie Moves, Nico Daws has a Bright Future

The New Jersey Devils traded for two goalies at the trade deadline, strengthening their roster in an area they've struggled in all season long. What does this mean for rookie goaltender Nico Daws?

New Jersey Devils goaltender Nico Daws (50) makes a save
New Jersey Devils goaltender Nico Daws (50) makes a save / John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

The New Jersey Devils made two goalie moves just ahead of the trade deadline last Friday. Prior to the moves, Nico Daws and Akira Schmid were the Devils’ two goalies in the NHL. Vitek Vanecek went on Injured Reserve in mid-February. After the goalie moves, the Devils have a new 1A/1B of Kaapo Kahkonen and Jake Allen. What does this mean for Nico Daws?

Schmid was sent down first, and Daws remains in the NHL while Allen’s work visa is being handled. He will be sent down to the AHL once Allen can legally play. This demotion will not be the last the NHL sees of Daws. The 23-year-old has a bright future ahead of him.

Trading Vanecek for Kahkonen was necessary. Vanecek has another year on his contract, while Kahkonen doesn't. The Devils can make a splash in the goaltender free-agent market this summer. However, trading for Allen was a perplexing move on the surface. The Devils need a rock-solid number one, not a 1B. The immediate purpose of this trade is to give Daws and Schmid some relief. There’s also the reality of waivers. Daws has 15 games remaining until he is no longer waiver-exempt. Schmid has eight games remaining. The Devils would like to preserve the waiver-exempt status.

However, Allen has another year on his contract, so he may block the young goalies for 1B next season. Also, Daws and Schmid will both be RFAs this offseason, so they will need new contracts. Allen, Schmid, or Daws could be packaged in a trade this summer.

Following offseason hip surgery, Daws returned to play in December and was steady in the AHL. The Devils called him up, and he immediately showed confidence in his first several starts. But his stats have been up and down, and he’s yet to find consistency. Daws has an .891 SV% and has saved 3.26 GAA in the NHL in 2023-24. His record is 9-11, and he has -3.7 goals saved above expected. These numbers are bad, but there’s reason for optimism.

The Devils asked too much of Daws. Their desperate need for solid goaltending led to overusing him following Vanecek’s injury. Daws was tasked with making starts in both back-to-back games, seven straight games, and 10 out of 11 games. There was no load management for a rookie who recently rehabbed from hip surgery. Of course, we can’t just throw out Daws’ worst games, but those really terrible starts in the midst of that long stretch blew up his stats.

Despite a rocky road this season, Daws has the potential to be an NHL goalie. He has had flashes of brilliance, especially in the Stadium Series. That night, he stopped the most shots ever in an NHL outdoor game, making 45 saves. Daws became just the third NHL rookie to win an outdoor game. In his two most recent starts, Daws posted a .958 SV% and a .917 SV%.

Daws makes some incredible saves on high-danger chances but often gives up weak goals. While his save percentage is below league average, his high-danger save percentage (.789) is better than league average and his mid-range save percentage (.910) is significantly better than league average. His long-range save percentage (.950) is below league average. Daws needs the right goaltending coach to help him make adjustments to fine-tune his game. More time developing in the AHL can benefit him.

It's clear that Daws has a lot of potential to grow into a consistent NHL goalie. Acquiring Allen as a 1B doesn’t mean the Devils have lost faith in Daws’ ability to factor into the team’s future. It doesn't mean he won't be the guy. It just means he’s not there yet.