New Jersey Devils Should Move On From Jacob Markstrom

The long-rumored deal between the New Jersey Devils and Calgary Flames surrounding goaltender Jacob Markstrom appeared dead. However, recent reports suggest that the Devils still want Markstrom. The Devils should let the deal die or at the very least revisit in the offseason.

Los Angeles Kings v Calgary Flames
Los Angeles Kings v Calgary Flames / Leah Hennel/GettyImages

The New Jersey Devils have needed a goalie since the beginning of the year. It seems they have been in rumored trade talks with multiple teams since November (not including the offseason trade talks), yet nothing has been done yet. Vitek Vanecek has been terrible. Akira Schmid needed to be sent down after his bad start to the year. Nico Daws has shown flashes of being a capable goalie, but will then follow up a great game with six goals allowed.

While that is not completely on Daws, as head coach Lindy Ruff has overplayed him at times, he still has not been as consistent as the team would like. The Devils have been attached to some names like Juuse Saros, Kappo Kahkonen, Marc-Andre Fleury, and a few others. But the name that has been mentioned the most by far is Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom.

Apparently, there was a deal so close between the two teams, Markstrom was asked to waive his no-trade clause, but the deal hit a snag at the last minute due to Flames ownership not wanting to retain salary. If you ask other reporters, it was not that close, but the fact of the matter is, the Devils and Flames have been linked more than Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce lately.

After long rumors surrounding the clubs, a report on Thursday suggested that the deal was dead. The Flames were going to keep Markstrom as it would be a "blow to the team's morale" and send the "wrong message" to the team. Even though they had traded Chris Tanev the night before, it seems as if the Devils would need to move on to Plan B if there was one.

But now it seems as if the Devils are willing to do the deal without salary retention,according to Pierre LeBrun. The Devils should absolutely avoid that at all cost. The idea of acquiring a goalie above the age of 33, with multiple years left on his deal, and not getting retention on it is not a good one.

There are a few things that will negatively affect the Devils if they acquire Markstrom without any retention on the deal. While the salary cap is going up, the Devils have a few contracts to give out. The biggest being Dawson Mercer. The Devils also have a decision to make about Tyler Toffoli. Is Toffoli someone the Devils want to hold onto? As the trade deadline approaches we know that they have received calls about the pure goal scorer.

The Dougie Hamilton will be back next year. This means his full $9 million cap hit comes off the books. While the Devils have a decent amount of cap space with him on LTIR, that will come back when Hamilton is healthy. The cap space you think you have is not going to be there much longer. Long term thinking, Luke Hughes will also need a new contract while you would still have Markstrom's full cap hit.

Tom Fitzgerald has gotten a lot of hate this season, especially recently due to his lack of movement. This is one of those times where not doing anything will be a good thing. While the package he would have to give up would be less than what he would give with retention, getting Markstrom with his current cap hit is still not a good idea.

The Devils would be wise to give up a bigger package on a cheaper and younger goalie like Saros or even Linus Ullmark. While those two only have one year remaining on their current deals, Markstrom does have an extra year. However, while Ullmark and Saros would be free agents, they would be 32 and 30 respectively and prime for a potential extension. Markstrom would be on his last year of his deal at 36.

Fitzgerald cannot cave here. If you want to make a move for a goalie this season, he would be better off going after an expiring contract like Kahkonen or even Penguins backup Alex Ndjelkovic. They would be better off finding a bigger fish in the offseason than to cave for Markstrom. As time goes on, more players could become available. The Bruins could choose to move on from Jeremy Swayman, a player who would perfectly fit the Devils competitive window.

As currently constructed, the Devils are not ready to compete for a Stanley Cup this year. They need more than just a goalie. While the Devils should not deliberately tank the season, they would be fine with a stopgap goalie. Similar to what Fitzgerald did a few years ago with Andrew Hammond and Jon Gillies. The goalies suggested are light years beyond what Hammond and Gillies did for the Devils, so if Fitzgerald feels like he owes it to his team again, pending free agents is the smart play right now.

Another factor to this, is what will happen with Vitek Vanecek? If the Devils acquire Markstrom at full retention, you need to move Vanecek. With Vanecek's struggles and the extra year on his contract, the Devils would need to give an asset away for someone to take the contract. If they wait until after this season is over, it is only one year left on his deal and it would be easier for Fitzgerald to move on from Vanecek, in theory.

Any move right now made by Fitzgerald for Markstrom would be a panic move. With how in flux the Devils are in the standings currently, he cannot trade away his first round pick, an asset that is most likely going to be moved. He should let the rest of the season play out with the pick unless there is a move for Saros or Ullmark that makes more sense than Markstrom.

With how patient Fitzgerald has been with his team this season, a few more months without Markstrom is not going to hurt the Devils all that much.