If the New Jersey Devils are going to upgrade their goaltending situation at some point, it’s not going to be Juuse Saros.
Over the summer, the Devils general manager made a lot of calls around the league to get a sense of the goaltending market. The Devils’ GM inquired about names such as Connor Hellebuyck, John Gibson, and Jusse Saros. Obviously, he stood pat with what he has in Vitek Vanecek and Akira Schmid as a result of a bloated market.
Fast forward to today, Hellebuyck has a shocking, but new long-term extension to remain in Winnipeg with the Jets. He’ll likely play there for the remainder of his career. As for Gibson, the Anaheim Ducks are playing surprisingly well, and the Ducks goaltender has a little bit to do with that. He’ll also likely stay put for now.
In Nashville, the Predators are sitting only above the San Jose Sharks, the worst team in the NHL. Many still wonder if the Devils might circle back to Nashville about Saros. However, according to the Predators GM Barry Trotz, they’re working toward extending the Finnish goaltender.
“I met with his agent, I’d like to re-sign him, I told them that’s our intention,” Trotz told The Athletic. “We’re obviously in a little bit of a re-tool type of situation and when we get reset here, I’d like him to be part of the backbone.
“I understand that there’s (trade) rumors out there. There’ll be rumors from the top teams, but that’s not our intention with Saros.”
The truth of the matter is despite their place in the standings, Trotz sees Nashville in a re-tooling phase rather than a rebuild. As a result, he believes the 28-year-old goaltender is part of the solution. As a result, Trotz doesn’t have the intention to do anything but ink him to an extension.
That leaves New Jersey with limited options.
If you ask head coach Lindy Ruff, New Jersey’s issues aren’t on the Devils’ goaltending.
The path of least resistance appears to be upgrading the blueline. New Jersey’s goaltending, although leaky at times, was fine in 2022-23 with a strong presence in front of them. That hasn’t necessarily been the case this season following the departures of Ryan Graves and Damon Severson.
Perhaps, Tom Fitzgerald can find a defenseman solution in Calgary, something he’s already inquired about. Perhaps one of Calgary’s goaltenders not named Dustin Wolf might also be available. Jacob Markstrom’s contract is less than desirable, however, and Dan Vladar doesn’t project as much of an upgrade.
It’s possible Colin Miller provides a bigger boost than anticipated as he has yet to play a regular-season game for the Devils. New Jersey will certainly want to see what they have with him in the lineup before pulling the trigger on anything.
The Devils’ fourth-best 26.86 xGA at 5-on-5, per Natural Stat Trick, suggests that they should be giving up far fewer goals than they have been. The truth is they need a save.
Fitzgerald might have to get creative here for a goaltender at some point. Otherwise, there will be more options to make life easier for Vanecek and Schmid via the blue line.