The Devils have always had good goaltenders (Martin Brodeur is an outlier and should not be counted) but they’re going to have to make a few goaltending decisions this summer.
Their biggest goaltending question right now is: are they going to resign Keith Kinkaid? He was signed to a 2-year, $1,450,000 contract and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. This ultimately comes down to what both sides want. Kinkaid is a good backup goaltender and the Devils might want to keep him to continue playing as such but if Kinkaid wants to become a starting goaltender, he may want to test free agency and sign elsewhere. There are plenty of teams looking for consistent starters but if he’s just going to backup someone somewhere else, he might as well stay in Jersey. He’ll get a decent contract too and he’s only 27.
Kinkaid has spent his entire NHL career with the Devils. He looked a little shaky this season (as did Cory Schneider) but he is a solid backup. He went 8-13-3 this season with a 2.64 GAA and .916 save percentage. His career numbers? 23-27-8 with a 2.68 GAA and a .912 save percentage. He’s played 69 (nice) career NHL games and played the most this season of any year prior (26). But he’s always been the backup. He backed up Brodeur, and now Schneider. He won’t be starting for the Devils any time soon (with Schneider and eventually Scott Wedgewood thrown into the mix) so if he wants to be a starter, he’ll have to go somewhere else.
Which brings us to point number two. Schneider isn’t getting any younger. He’s 35 now and is arguably in his prime. He had a down year (20-27-11, 2.82 GAA, .908 save %) but he has been one of the best goaltenders in the NHL for years and will have to be the All-Star goaltender that Devils fans know he is if the team has any hope of making the playoffs next season. He wants to stay in New Jersey and be a part of the solution. He wants to carry the team to the playoffs (and he’ll do it kicking and screaming). He’s been nothing but a leader on this team and constantly takes blame for losses (that usually aren’t his fault). He deserves a Cup.
Schneider’s career numbers are pretty amazing. He has an overall 144-124-46 record with a 2.28 GAA and a .922 save percentage (23 shutouts) in 330 games played. His numbers this season are partially also the way they are because of the lack of a defense in front of him. Get him a good defense and he will thrive. He’s currently signed to a 7-year, $42 million contract through 2021-22 and he does have a no-trade clause.
Some people have brought up the possibility of trading Schneider, especially during the season by fans when Schneider had his human moments. There’s nothing wrong with entertaining offers from other teams about possible trades but trading Schneider at all really shouldn’t be a possibility. He’s one of the best goaltenders in the league. Do you know how hard it is to find a goalie of his caliber? It’s almost impossible and teams suffer without a good goaltender. The trade speculation was further perpetuated by this article from The Hockey News earlier this month: STARS SHOULD OFFER THE NO. 3 PICK… TO THE DEVILS FOR CORY SCHNEIDER. It’s not a bad idea but it’s not going to happen. The very notion of a trade like this is ludicrous to me. Yeah, the Devils could use another pick, especially a third overall pick (the Devils drafted Scott Niedermayer third overall back in 1991 and look at how that turned out), but is the pick worth trading Schneider? No.
We also have the Vegas expansion draft this summer (damn it, Vegas). The Devils have to protect a goaltender and they have to expose one. There’s absolutely no way they wouldn’t protect Schneider. In order to expose Kinkaid, they’d have to resign him to a new contract. Or they could just choose to expose Wedgewood. No matter who they decide to expose, there won’t be a ton of fear of losing them because Vegas is going to have much better options.
On to point number three: Scott Wedgewood. This isn’t as much of a question as it is speculation. Wedgewood has played just four games in the NHL, all last season when Schneider was injured, and he looked pretty good. He went 2-1-1 with a 1.25 GAA and a .957 save percentage, but this is a really, really small sample size. He missed the entirety of this season with a shoulder injury but should be good to go in the fall. He’s a viable backup option and will probably, eventually take on that role (or sooner if Kinkaid leaves). He’s only 24 and will continue to grow and develop into an NHL-caliber goaltender. He’s already shown glimpses of it and if he makes the jump up, Albany (AHL) will still be in good hands.
Which now brings us to point number four: the prospects. The Devils have decent goaltending prospects in their system. MacKenzie Blackwood and Ken Appleby have split time in net for the Albany Devils, both of whom were rookies this season. Appleby was even called up for a game this season to back up Schneider. Blackwood went 17-14-4 during the regular season (2.55 GAA, .907 save %, 3 shutouts) while Appleby went 17-14-1 (2.63 GAA, .903 save %, no shutouts). Blackwood played just four more games during the regular season and played all four during the postseason, going 1-3 with a 2.13 GAA and a .928 save percentage; his lone win was a shutout. Both have looked really good at times and still need development but they could be possibilities down the road too. The Devils also have Evan Cormier, who they selected in last year’s draft. He went 23-19-2(ties) in the OHL this past season with a 3.23 GAA, a .899 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. He had a better season than years past and is also an option in the future.
The Devils have drafted three goalies in the last four drafts, two in the last two drafts under GM Ray Shero. They selected Cormier last year 105th overall (4th round), Blackwood the year before that at 42nd overall (2nd round), and Anthony Brodeur (the last name should look familiar) in 2013, 208th overall (7th round). The last time before that was in 2010 when the Devils selected Wedgewood (84th overall, 3rd round) and Maxime Clemont (204th overall, 7th round). The Devils haven’t drafted goaltenders that often but they’ve drafted one every year under Shero. Will they draft another one this year? Or do they have enough in the system for now?
So there’s a lot to do. Should the Devils resign Kinkaid and expose him? Will he go somewhere else? If yes, where do you think he’ll go? Do you think trading Schneider is a realistic idea? Would you rather have Kinkaid or Wedgewood as a backup? Will the Vegas expansion draft ever stop giving me anxiety? We’ll find out in a month.