This is the final part of a three-part series covering the different goaltending options for the New Jersey Devils for the 2023-24 season.
This offseason has the potential to be one of the most important in recent New Jersey Devils history. Following a remarkable 2022-23 season, the Devils have put themselves in a position to be a Stanley Cup favourite. Locking up key cogs like Jesper Bratt and Timo Meier, and bringing in 30-goal scorer Tyler Toffoli makes New Jersey a legitimate Cup contender. That being said, the Devils are still rumoured to be in the hunt for another goalie. So far we’ve covered their internal options and high profile trade targets. In this final part, we’re taking a look at four under-the-radar trade targets in goal for New Jersey to consider.
Under the Radar Acquisitions
The first of the New Jersey Devils trade targets comes from familiar territory. After going undrafted, DeSmith has spent the last five seasons as the backup goalie for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Over his career, he has filled in admirably for the oft-injured Tristian Jarry. However, it was a down year in 2022-23, reaching career lows with a 3.17 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage. Although the Pittsburgh Penguins as a whole had a down and underwhelming year.
DeSmith is an enticing option for New Jersey for a few reasons. He has a considerably low cap hit at $1.8 million for only one more season. He also has a proven track record of being a slightly above-average backup goalie. And Pittsburgh’s current goaltending and financial situation is less than ideal. In terms of a contract, having one year left at that small an AAV allows the Devils to fit him in under the cap and give Akira Schmid one more year of seasoning as the AHL starter.
Just reiterating what the @penguins said earlier: Casey DeSmith made De-Save. 🤭
— NHL (@NHL) March 26, 2023
Pittsburgh also has three goalies on NHL contracts after extending Jarry and signing Alex Nedeljkovic in free agency. One of the three would need to pass through waivers and the likelihood of making it through are slim. They are also over $2 million over the cap, so moving DeSmith for a pick or prospect frees up space, especially for a player likely heading for free agency next offseason.
This one is unlikely, but this is a New Jersey Devils trade target if they see a fit. It has been a fast rise for Filip Gustavsson since coming over to Minnesota from Ottawa. The pending RFA had an exceptional year and was quietly one of the best goalies in the NHL in 2022-23. In 39 games he posted a 2.10 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage. Gustavsson was the lone piece that came over from the Cam Talbot trade last year. After limited games in Ottawa, he was given an opportunity with Minnesota and ran with it. Due to his breakout season, it is unlikely that he could get traded, however, a few factors are working against him.
Really intrigued to see how Filip Gustavsson does next year with the #mnwild. Have to think he shoulders a heavier load next year.
Maybe 50-55% of the teams' games?
— Jacob Stoller (@JLStoller) July 22, 2023
The first is his contract situation. He is set for an arbitration hearing soon and those can get messy. Deadlines typically spring action, but Wild GM Bill Guerin seems like the type who would rather not deal with a muddied contract negotiation. The second factor working against Gustavsson is Jesper Wallstedt. The Swedish goalie prospect has elite potential and could immediately slot into the starter’s net, making Gustavsson a high-priced backup.
The trade package and contract would be a little bigger than some of the other under-the-radar options for New Jersey. His value likely lies just beneath one of the high-profile trade targets. However, the Devils would be acquiring a 25-year-old goalie with not a lot of tread on the tires. It would be a move out of left field, but GM Tom Fitzgerald has shown that he is no stranger to making a big, unexpected trade.
It turns out that poaching goalies from one of the worst teams in the NHL equates to winning the Stanley Cup. At least that’s what Colorado and Vegas have learned the past two seasons. Darcy Kuemper and Adin Hill were solid goalies during their time in the desert, and given the circumstances so has Karel Vejmelka. His numbers do not indicate his play on a terrible Coyotes team. Vejmelka has also been the subject of trade rumours over the past year, especially as the team continues to rebuild.
What makes Vejmelka an enticing trade option for New Jersey is his age and contract. Still, at just 27 years old, he has two more seasons left at $2.725 million per season. It may take a little maneuvering, but that is an AAV that the Devils could fit if they needed to. The two main questions surrounding him are his play and the cost of acquisition. It is very plausible that going from the very bad Coyotes to a potential top-five team in New Jersey could bring out a very good goalie. Vejmelka has had good moments in the NHL and fits the eye test, but the numbers don’t follow. Maybe a change of scenery would help.
What a save by Karel Vejmelka 🚫 pic.twitter.com/4JGeNlGa8L
— ESPN+ (@ESPNPlus) April 3, 2022
Then the question of cost comes in. Arizona may ask for a package similar to what they got for Darcy Kuemper. That price would likely be too rich for the Devils. It is tough to speculate potential returns, but something centered around a high pick and a B prospect may be reasonable. There are likely better and less risky options on the market other than Vejmelka, but the Devils could look to make it 3/3 on former Arizona Coyotes goalies to win the Stanley Cup.
Here is the final New Jersey Devils trade target. The Devils have already made a deal with the Flames to boost their top six and could feasibly look to them again to solve their goalie situation. After coming over from Boston two years ago, Vladar has proven to be a very solid backup goalie. Similar to Vejmelka, Vladar has a modest salary, making $2.2 million AAV, and has recently been in trade rumours. Calgary has Jacob Markstrom locked up long-term to be their number one, and AHL Goalie of the Year Dustin Wolf is ready to take the next step. With two years left on his deal, it is probably Calgary’s chance to extract the most valuable from him.
— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) January 9, 2023
As it pertains to New Jersey, this may be one of the better options. For starters, Vladar is still only 25 and his two years of control at $2.2 million AAV give the team a young and cost-controlled option. Vladar is also one of the better options in terms of cost. He likely would cost more than a DeSmith, but less than a Gustavsson or Vejmelka. It’s argued that Tom Fitzgerald has already fleeced Calgary GM Craig Conroy once, maybe he can do it again in a Dan Vladar trade.
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