How Tom Fitzgerald Can Improve New Jersey Devils This Offseason

After Tom Fitzgerald acquired Jake Allen from the Montreal Canadiens, it is time to rethink the way the New Jersey Devils goalie situation could look moving forward. And that's not all, as the Devils have many holes to fill if they want to be a true contender in 2025.

San Jose Sharks v New Jersey Devils
San Jose Sharks v New Jersey Devils / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

With Jake Allen looking like he has solidified a backup role going into next season, it would be beneficial for a young Nico Daws to accept a qualifying offer in the offseason and build his value with the New Jersey Devils. It is less likely the Devils bring back Swiss goalie Akira Schmid after the mishandling of his call-ups and playing time under former coach Lindy Ruff. Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald has been keen on getting Jacob Markstrom via trade during the NHL Trade Deadline but figured both sides would revisit this in the offseason.

The Devils once hosted the "steal of the NHL Draft" when Gary Bettman announced Cory Schneider was coming to the Garden State (in New Jersey, who was hosting the draft in 2013). However, it was exactly what bit him bad. Schneider was given too many starts in net where the mileage and lower body injuries racked up. His last season with the Devils had only 13 games, and it was in 2019-2020, a bit after his best years in NJ from 2013-14 to 2018-19.

Because of the Schneider situation, Devils fans are very skeptical of older goalies. Anyone 30 years and older could show true wear and tear at any point. Hence, trading for Jacob Markstrom might be a big mistake in the long term. In the short term, if you acquire him, do not give up the majority of your best assets for an older depreciating asset like a used car with nearly 200,000 miles on it.

Enter the Finnish phenom in Nashville... Juuse Saros. Saros is an outlier, unlike many other goalies in today's NHL. Yes, he is 5'11, 180 lbs. Saros was a product of the 2013 NHL Draft. This season, he has won 30 games including two shutouts. When in front of a good-to-great defense, he makes his team freaking hard to win against and has stellar numbers in the 17 playoffs games with 2.63 GAA and a .914 SV%. Despite the 3-7 win-loss record where he has fallen on the unlucky side, he's shown he comes to play when it matters most. To trade for Saros will be worth the investment, while Jake Allen and Nico Daws in net (hypothetically) on the depth charts will be worth it in the near and long run.

The trade will likely cost the Devils Alexander Holtz, a 1st round pick, and possibly Seamus Casey. It is unlikely Casey ever makes the Devils in an impactful role. There is a plethora of defensemen growing into their roles, and a healthy Jonas Siegenthaler and Dougie Hamilton will clicking offensively and defensively to 2022-23 norms.

One of the reasons Alexander Holtz is a bit easier to trade is because he is more designed to be a shooter and is slowly gaining the ability to play a two-way game responsibly. The trade won't hurt the Devils as much because he will be going to the Western Conference, and the Devils, down the line, get Lenni Hameenaho from Finland along with Arseni Gritsyuk around the 2025-26 timeline that round out the top 9 in The Garden State of Hockey. Meanwhile, Dawson Mercer is a more consistent shooter has a really good two-way game, and can be a strong player in the playoffs that wins a lot of battles.

It is less likely Travis Green will become the head coach full-time in New Jersey. Despite a few changes to the lineup, It is more likely Tom Fitzgerald will go back to the well in Pittsburgh for this hire. A huge target is likely on current Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan. He will be a hot commodity, but the Devils provide a very unique opportunity.

If you are looking for someone who has been handling a really solid 1-2 punch down the middle, Coach Sullivan is the guy who can provide the more robust high accountability that a ripening Devils roster needs. This Devils team needs a man who is not just a great regular-season coach but also a Stanley Cup playoff guy. Sullivan has been part of three Stanley Cups, two of them as a coach and one as a developmental coach with the Chicago Blackhawks.

If the Devils go out and get a Nikita Zadorov or Noah Hanifin via Free Agency for the left side while signing Danton Heinen and Sam Reinhart, this would be a big offseason by Tom Fitzgerald. The salary cap is projected to hit $87.7 million this offseason according to CapFriendly, so it will be interesting to see how the market is dictated after the Stanley Cup is hoisted.

Adding one of Nikita Zadorov or Hanifin would bring in a shot suppressor and body-banging sasquatch to the Top-two defensive pairings. Heinen would bring scoring depth to the bottom six to fill in what Michael McLeod left behind. Sam Reinhart would bring the sniper to the Devils to replace Tyler Toffoli out on the market or back in Winnipeg.