New Jersey Devils Season Is Over, Now What?

Possibly the worst New Jersey Devils season of all time is now over. How does franchise move forward from here?
Toronto Maple Leafs v New Jersey Devils
Toronto Maple Leafs v New Jersey Devils / Elsa/GettyImages

It was a hapless end to the season, as the New Jersey Devils watched the New York Islanders celebrate a playoff berth with a 5-1 victory at the Prudential Center. The Devils, one of the first teams in the league to see its season end, was never supposed to be here. We had done our time with rebuild and disappointments. Yet, this was one of the worst seasons in franchise history.

We don’t need to list what’s gone wrong. We’ve done that already. However, Tom Fitzgerald and this front office need to learn from the mistakes of this season. Josh Harris, David Blitzer and company will clean house if this ever happens again. The Devils were supposed to be Stanley Cup contenders this season. They finished the season with 81 points.

It is hard to quantify just how big a disappointment this season was. Missing the playoffs despite the threshold to get into the playoffs being the 91-point Washington Capitals is bad. The Devils really just needed to be an average team. The Caps have a -37 goal differential. They lost more games than they won, yet they are taking on the Rangers in Round 1. 

Now, the offseason begins. There are a few major storylines on the docket. The obvious ones is the additions. The Devils are current sitting with the 10th-overall pick, but one Flames win would push the Devils to the ninth pick. Where they are now, the Devils have a 3.5% chance to get the first-overall pick. We’re sure that would go over well. They also have a 19% chance to move down a pick or two. 

The Devils will also revisit the goaltending situation. Jakob Markstrom is the obvious name because he was so tied to the Devils. They will also revisit Juuse Saros and any other great goalie that becomes available. The Devils will not go into next season with Jake Allen as the starter. 

Goalie is not the only place where the Devils will make additions. They will likely add some depth on defense, and they have the money to make one decent-sized move at forward. The question is, will they try to replace the impact of Michael McLeod or will they try to replace Tyler Toffoli, possibly with Toffoli himself?

There are some contracts to deal with. Dawson Mercer needs a new deal. The Devils could give an extension to Luke Hughes, and it might make sense if they think they could get a discount based on his first season. There are some unrestricted free agents the Devils need to talk about, including Kurtis MacDermid, Brendan Smith, Tomas Nosek, and Chris Tierney.

Kaapo Kahkonen is another unrestricted free agent that the Devils truly have to think about. After he was acquired from the San Jose Sharks, he had a .923 save percentage in six games. It’s a small sample size, but he was good. However, would we be confident with a Kahkonen-Allen combination next season? That’s for Tom Fitzgerald to decide. 

Of course, the most important decision is that of the head coach. We’ll wait until the end of the week to see which head coaches might become available. The Devils need to know the whole story before making a decision. 

It’s going to be a busy offseason that came too quickly. Fitzgerald is facing his most important offseason because his seat got surprisingly warm after the mistakes made in 2023-24.