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Friedman: Devils Goaltending Options and Acquisition Costs

The Devils continue their search to upgrade goaltending in a bloated market.

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New Jersey Devils
Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

The New Jersey Devils certainly continue to be in the market for goaltending.

We know they’ve checked in on the likes of John Gibson and Jake Allen. Those names are still on the Devils’ radar, but there are more options they’ll certainly ponder if they haven’t already.

The fact of the matter is the market is quite expensive. Recently on the NHL Network, insider Elliotte Friedman provided an update on the issue that is the bloated goaltending market.

“I think (the Devils) have been looking,” Friedman explained. “The most recent team to comb through the league is Toronto. One of the things I’ve heard from them, and they’re trying to be careful about it, is if you want to get someone right now it’s really going to cost you. These teams with extra goaltenders or goaltenders to trade know they’re in a position of leverage. Sometimes you have the hammer and sometimes you don’t. I think one of the things Toronto wanted to do is trade a late-round pick for a goalie and they didn’t get much out there.”

The Devils have the capital to make a deal. That’s not the issue. However, there are a few things that they don’t want to do. They don’t want to mortgage their entire future, they don’t want to overpay for a product, and they might need to also add a defenseman.

In addition to Gibson and Allen, New Jersey has a few other options to look at. We know Calgary is open for business. Columbus is, too, however, an in-division trade could cost the Devils a little extra.

“Gibson, most teams are going to require them to retain,” Friedman continued. “Pat Verbeek is a really tough negotiator. I’ve been told that’s gonna be a really hard deal to do. (Jacob) Markstrom has a no-move clause, he has to agree to anything, so that’s the biggest challenge there. (Elvis) Merzlikins, I definitely think he’s available. I think again, the question is a $5.4 million cap hit, he’s struggled at times, what is Columbus willing to do to make this work? But he’s definitely available. (Jake) Allen is definitely available. One more year, Montreal has asked for a bigger price. They’re one of the teams knowing they’re in the position of strength, but right now no one is willing to pay what Montreal (is asking).”

Ironically, one option is in San Jose where half of the tandem used to work for the Devils. Mackenzie Blackwood is splitting the net with Kaapo Kahkonen and the interest in the Finnish netminder is increasing, although cautious. Additionally, it’s not going to cost teams as much as the aforementioned.

“Kahkonen is an interesting one,” Friedman concluded. “He’s available, he’s up after this year, and he’s an unrestricted free agent. His underlying numbers have been really good on a San Jose (Sharks) team that’s struggled. I definitely think there is interest in him because No.1, I think the price on the other goaltenders is really high. No.2, the only question about Kahkonen is he’s never been in a position before where he’s had to lead a team that has expectations. I think that’s one of the things that some teams are weighing here. If we do go get Kahkonen who’s having a great year, how do they think he’s going to handle being the face of a team that wants to contend or win playoff rounds?”

The 27-year-old goaltender accrued a 5-11-1 record with the Sharks thus far. His .900 SV% and 3.54 GAA don’t jump off the page, however, a glance at MoneyPuck shows Kahkonen’s made 5.4 saves above expected. That’s 17.5 more than Vitek Vanecek’s -12.1. There are certainly a number of one or two-goal games this season that those saves could have come in handy.

The question becomes can the Devils rely on Kahkonen down the stretch and in the playoffs? The Sharks goaltender has no playoff experience. There’s not much there to reference.

Nico Daws has provided the Devils with a calming presence in the crease. He’s also shown flashes of why the Devils organization still holds him in such high regard. However, the Devils likely want a netminder who has been there and done that in the postseason. With Akira Schmid demoted, that’s not something the Devils possess at the present time.

Daws might be able to keep the Devils afloat for now, however, it’s a gamble if New Jersey stands pat with their current goaltending situation.

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