What If New Jersey Devils Drafted Yaroslav Askarov Instead of Alexander Holtz?

The New Jersey Devils have been on a decade-long odyssey to find their next franchise goalie, but what would have happened if they had not passed up their best chance to find one in 2020?

2020 NHL Draft - Round One
2020 NHL Draft - Round One / Mike Stobe/GettyImages
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The 2024 New Jersey Devils Season

With Askarov starting in place of Vitek Vanecek, the 2024 Alternate Universe Devils are nowhere near as bad as they were in the real 2024 season. Instead, with Askarov and Kahkonen stabilizing their goaltending, the Devils are safely in an Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Jake Allen refused to waive his no-trade clause earlier in the real-life 2024 season, citing playing time concerns with Vanecek, Schmid, and Daws on the roster. In this universe, Allen does not mind waiving the clause to backup Askarov on a contender, and the Devils and Canadiens make the same trade with the same terms, but in November instead of March. Toffoli does not get traded because the Devils are able to convince him to sign a short-term extension to chase a Stanley Cup.

The Alternate Universe Devils make the Eastern Conference Final, which triggers the condition in the Timo Meier trade, causing the Devils to send their 2024 1st-round pick to the San Jose Sharks, at #29 overall.

Instead of spending the 2024 offseason “big game hunting” for a starting goalie on the wrong side of thirty, Tom Fitzgerald rests easy knowing that he has Yaroslav Askarov and Jake Allen for a combined $2.5 million against the cap. 

The salary cap space Fitzgerald will be using in the real-life 2024 offseason on a big-name goalie can instead be earmarked in our alternate universe for a veteran defenseman to stabilize the young D-core. Alternate Universe Fitzgerald signs Noah Hanifin to a six-year contract worth $8 million annually.

In this timeline, in the words of Kurt Vonnegut, everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt. All because the Devils drafted Yaroslav Askarov instead of Alexander Holtz four years ago.