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Goalie Market Heating Up, Devils Not Alone in the Hunt

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New Jersey Devils

The goaltending market is heating up and the New Jersey Devils are not alone in the hunt.

John Gibson being pulled in the third period of the Anaheim Ducks’ tilt with the Devils on Sunday sure was suspicious. Devils goaltender Vitek Vanecek didn’t dress to start the game to begin with and Anaheim had to pull Gibson after two periods of strong play due to illness. As previously reported, general manager Tom Fitzgerald has re-engaged in Gibson, so it certainly led to plenty of speculation.

Well, per a source close to Anaheim, the Ducks goaltender really did fall ill and it was “completely innocent.” If there will be a trade for Gibson, it wasn’t yesterday.

Regardless, the goaltending market is beginning to churn. Further, the NHL Trade Freeze is approaching as well. It takes effect Wednesday, Dec. 20, at midnight and runs until Thursday, Dec. 28.

There are a number of teams that are in need of goaltending right now. That list includes the Devils. However, other teams in the hunt are the Carolina Hurricanes, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, and Toronto Maple Leafs. Some injuries and disappointing performances put all four teams and the Devils at the forefront of the goaltending race.

Gibson is one of the names that are available on the market. Right now, it seems like teams are trying to hold off as long as they possibly can for a few reasons, but one most notable is to accrue more cap space. That’s not to say all those teams are bidding for Gibson, but the Pittsburgh native carries a $6.4 million cap hit which not many teams can afford.

However, Gibson isn’t the only name available. There are a number of teams this season that are carrying three goaltenders. The Montreal Canadiens are one of those teams. They extended Sam Moneambault to a three-year extension. I’m told he’s not totally untradeable even after an extension, however, he’s less likely to be moved than Jake Allen or Cayden Primeau.

The Buffalo Sabres brought Devon Levi back from the AHL out of necessity and he’s been playing well. They also have Ukka-Pekka Luuokkonen and Eric Comrie who teams are certainly calling on.

As for the Detroit Red Wings, Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman states that he doesn’t believe GM Steve Yzerman is in any hurry to trade one of his three netminders.

Emerging in this situation is the Columbus Blue Jackets. Daniil Tarasov is back and played against the Devils a few nights ago. They also have Elvis Merzlikins and Spencer Martin.

Merzlikins’ situation is certainly interesting. He’s having a rebound year after a dreadful 2022-23. The Blue Jackets are seemingly in rebuilding quicksand and he’d certainly net Columbus assets to contribute toward the future.

An in-division trade is always tough and would cost New Jersey more than usual, but perhaps Merzlikins can be a solution in New Jersey’s crease. Fitzgerald has at least picked up the phone to ask for a price.

As Friedman stated on the latest 32 Thoughts the Podcast, “I think there’s some teams wondering ‘how much longer can we go before we sort this out?’” The NHL Roster freeze is in two days. We’ll see if anything unfolds before then.

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