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Former Devils Goaltender Ready to Move On, ‘I Don’t Want to Talk About New Jersey’

In his first comments with the San Jose Sharks, former New Jersey Devils netminder Vitek Vanecek explains he’s ready to move on.



New Jersey Devils

It’s safe to say the end of Vitek Vanecek’s tenure with the New Jersey Devils ended poorly.

Vanecek went from being the starting goaltender on a 112-point Devils team in 2022-23 to an unreliable netminder who turned in one of the worst goaltending performances thus far in 2023-24.

General manager Tom Fitzgerald needed a goaltending solution, and in hindsight, he probably needed to find it sooner.

Vanecek last played on Fab.10th, a 1-0 31-save loss in overtime to the Carolina Hurricanes. It was reported two days later that Vanecek was dealing with a lower-body injury.

“It was in Carolina. I was in the butterfly,” Vanecek explained to the San Jose media via San Jose Hockey Now about his injury. “The puck was getting through my five-hole. I tried to squeeze my legs and something [went] wrong there.”

His next game would not be in a Devils sweater.

Fitzgerald phoned Sharks GM Mike Grier and traded Vanecek and a seventh-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft from New Jersey in exchange for goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen.

Alas, the Vanecek era was over.

In his first comments as a member of the Sharks, Vanecek explained he was ready to move on.

“I don’t want to talk about New Jersey anymore,” Vanecek said. “I’m in San Jose now.”

Recognizing his inconsistent year recording a 17-9-3 record, yet, paired with an .890 Save % and -11.2 goals saved above expected, Vanecek concluded, “It wasn’t a great season.”

He’s certainly not wrong. If Jake Allen and Kahkonen have proven anything, it’s that the Devils might have been in playoff position at this point had Fitzgerald been a little more proactive.

As for San Jose, Vanecek understands he’s arrived in a situation where the expectations are certainly different than in New Jersey and is excited for the future.

“I’m happy to be here,” Vanecek said. “What I see, it’s a rebuild. For sure, it’s a hard thing. But I think they’re going to go in a good direction. They’re doing what they can and I will do what I can.”

Time will tell how long Vanecek’s tenure in San Jose will last. He does have one more year at a $3.4 million cap hit left on his contract.

It won’t be a totally unfamiliar locker room for Vanecek. He’s walking into a goalie tandem situation with former partner Mackenzie Blackwood.

“He’s a good guy,” Vanecek said. “I enjoyed playing with him and I think it’s gonna be great to be here with him next year.”

Much like Vanecek, Blackwood has another year remaining on his contract. Vanecek explained he’s excited to play alongside Blackwood and believes he can still be a No.1 goaltender.

“Last year, I had a great season in New Jersey. I was playing 55 games or something like that,” he said. “Yeah, of course, I think I can be a No. 1.”

Blackwood isn’t alone in welcoming an old friend. Fabian Zetterlund joins Blackwood in welcoming Vanecek to San Jose and is putting in the extra work to make the former Devils goaltender feel comfortable.

“They are going to show you the city and they are going to help me,” he said. “They were driving me from the hotel to here, so it’s great to have somebody. They can help me see the things here.”

Fitzgerald did well for himself, cutting the Devils loose of Vanecek’s $3.4 million next season, and Kahkonen has been strong for New Jersey to boot.

Now that he’s in a lower profile situation and surrounded by familiar faces, Vanecek is ready to look forward with the Sharks and not backward at the Devils. It’s certainly a win-win situation for both sides.

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