It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the New Jersey Devils head into the 2022–23 season as currently constructed. As you know by now, general manager, Tom Fitzgerald has done an immaculate job in retaining his core players long-term. He even added to an already potent top-six forward group. However, if there is one thing that the Devils might do before October, it’s upgrading the goaltending. According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, New Jersey continues keeping tabs on Connor Hellebuyck and John Gibson although the former might remain in Winnipeg.
“I had some people tell me that they wouldn’t be surprised if Hellebuyck starts the year in Winnipeg,” Friedman explained in an interview on NHL Network. “The Jets don’t want to do a rebuild. Considering that Pierre-Luc Dubois had all of the leverage, they know they made a pretty good trade for him. I don’t think they want to go backward. I think they want to try to make the playoffs next year. It’s not only about trading Hellebuyck, it’s about do they have an adequate replacement for him.”
Friedman continued: “John Gibson is still in Anaheim. I think New Jersey has looked at both of these goaltenders, Hellebuyck and Gibson, among others. I just think that there’s, again, a lot of teams here playing kind of a poker game, a waiting game, and I don’t think it would be a huge shock of ll Hellebuyck started the year in Winnipeg.”
At the moment, New Jersey goaltending tandem looks like it will be Vitek Vanecek and Akira Schmid. Vin, a check was solid in the 2022-23 regular season accruing 33 wins. Perhaps the Devils believe he can improve in the playoffs. Or, perhaps they believe Schmid can take another step forward next season and become a front-line starter in the NHL.
Schmid’s waiver exemption gives the Devils the flexibility to move him between the NHL and American Hockey League freely. Nico Daws’ surgery will make him miss time in Utica. New Jersey might not be against getting Schmid a little more seasoned at the AHL level.
Regardless, if Fitzgerald can make something happen that he’s comfortable with without mortgaging too much of New Jersey’s future, an upgrade in the Devils crease might make him and head coach, Lindy Ruff, more comfortable. Especially after losing Damon Severson and Ryan Graves on the blue line.
Earlier in the summer, the hold-up on a Hellebuyck trade was due to the uncertainty in the Winnipeg goaltender’s next contract. According to Friedman, a buying team could get Hellebuyck for just one season, which should significantly lower the cost of acquisition. Yet, the 30-year-old goaltender still desires to land somewhere he can both win and extend.
“Unless you’re trading for Hellebuyck and you know it’s only a one-year thing, you’re not going to trade for him unless you have an idea of what his next contract is going to be,” Friedman explained. “Connor Hellebuyck is gonna get paid. I don’t think anybody is gonna be surprised by that or anybody is not expecting that. The biggest thing is he’s made it very clear he wants to be in a situation where he can win.”
“I think of Hellebuyck goes somewhere he wants to go, then I think he will be in a situation where he’ll be able to make a deal,” Friedman continued.
As for Gibson, there’s a debate as to whether or not he said he would not play a game for the Ducks ever again. However, the sense is that he would like to start somewhere new for a chance to win a championship. Hard to find a better place right now than New Jersey to do so.
After signing Tomáš Nosek to a one-year deal, the Devils have $3,075,000 remaining in cap space. That does not include restricted free-agent, defenseman, Kevin Bahl. Hellebuyck’s cap hit is $6,166,666 and Gibsons is $6,400,000 call which means the Devils would need to move money if a trade came to fruition. It appears this “hot Tom summer” may not be over just yet.
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