(This is the fifth and final part of my Devils’ depth evaluation series! Part one (defensemen) is here, part two (right wing) is here, part three (left wing) is here, and part four (centers) is here! If you’d like to see me do something similar to this series in the future, let me know what it is!)
To round out the series, we now turn our focus to goaltender. Yes, the Devils have had legendary goaltenders and you know this because I don’t need to name them. While the organization may never see another goalie of their caliber for a while, they have some pretty damn good ones in the system right now and some promising prospects. Let’s take a look!
Cory Schneider has carried the Devils ever since he got traded here a few years ago and if you think otherwise, you’re wrong (just kidding, I welcome other opinions). There’s a post here, defending him and why he’s the backbone of the team. He will drag this team to the playoffs and he will be their difference-maker then just like he is now. The only reason the Devils weren’t a bottom team during the 2015-16 season was because of Schneider’s phenomenal goaltending. He had a “bad” (I use this loosely) 2016-17 campaign and the Devils did too (they had a ton of other problems too though so take this with a grain of salt). Schneider’s getting older (he’s not quite at Jagr’s level yet) but he’s in his prime. The Devils are in a rebuild and I don’t want to suggest that they’re wasting him but if they needed a reason to make the playoffs (other than, ya know, making the playoffs), it should be for Schneider. He deserves a Stanley Cup more than a lot of people.
So he had a down year compared to his NHL career numbers. He went 20-27-11 in 59 starts (60 games played), and posted a 2.82 goals against average and a .908 save percentage. He allowed the most goals in one season (163) of his career but he also played over 60 games for just the second time (he played 69 games (nice) in 2014-15, also with the Devils). His career numbers are better: a 144-124-46 record, a 2.28 GAA, and a .922 save percentage. Was this season just an anomaly? Hopefully.
There were also trade rumors all season long (some from journalists, some from fans who wanted Schneider traded after his bad start), and while he could probably net a good return, elite goaltenders are difficult to come by. Yes, Schneider is still elite even if he had a relatively not-so-great season. One particular rumor was that the Devils might considering trading Schneider to Dallas for their third overall pick; I didn’t like the deal but now the Stars have Ben Bishop so I don’t think they’re looking for another starting goaltender.
Besides, Schneider is still the starting goaltender on this team until further notice. He still has five years left on his contract and he has a no-trade clause in place so he’s going to stick around for a bit. His backup goalie, on the other hand, might look for a starting job elsewhere.
Keith Kinkaid has spent his entire NHL career with the Devils, which means he’s spent his entire career backing up someone else; first, it was Marty Brodeur and now it’s Cory Schneider. He’s a pretty decent backup goalie; he had a not-so-great season too (which indicates that the Devils have much bigger problems than goaltending, no surprises there). He went 8-13-3 with a 2.64 GAA and a .916 save %. His career numbers: a 23-27-8 record, a 2.68 GAA, and a .912 save %.
Kinkaid is an unrestricted free agent this offseason; his 2-year, $1.45 million contract expired and unless he signs a new contract, he’ll look for a new job elsewhere. If Kinkaid wants to be a starter, he’ll test free agency. If not, signing with New Jersey is likely. It’s all up to what both he and the organization want. If he does sign with the Devils, he’s the goaltender who’s going to be exposed to Vegas. There’s a chance that they might lose him depending on who else is available to them.
And if they do lose Kinkaid to either free agency or Vegas, the Devils have a backup goaltender in Scott Wedgewood. He has four games of NHL experience (all during the 2015-16 season) where he went 2-1-1 with a 1.25 GAA and a .957 save %, and while those are impeccable numbers, they account for just four games. He looked pretty damn good in those four games and with more experience, he’ll become an NHL-caliber goaltender soon enough.
He missed most of this past season in Albany (AHL) because of a shoulder injury; he did play 10 games and went 5-3-0 with a 2.18 GAA and a .912 save %, also pretty decent numbers. He’s played for a variety of teams over the past five seasons, including Albany, New Jersey, the Adirondack Thunder (ECHL), and the Trenton Titans (ECHL).
On to the goalie prospects. The Devils have drafted three goaltenders in the last four drafts (2016, 2015, and 2013) and two back in 2010 (Wedgewood and Maxime Clermont).
MacKenzie Blackwood was drafted 42nd overall in the 2015 entry-level draft. He spent three years with the Barrie Colts (OHL) and was named to the OHL First All-Rookie Team in 2013-14 and the OHL First All-Star Team in 2015-16; he also was named the OHL Goaltender of the Year in 2015-16. He played 139 regular season games with the Colts, posting a 2.93 GAA and about a .901 save %. He’s played 32 playoff games, and has a 2.73 GAA and about a .914 save %.
In his first season with the Albany Devils, he went 17-14-3 with three shutouts, a 2.55 GAA, and a .907 save % during the regular season; he went 1-3-0 during the playoffs with his lone win a shutout, a 2.13 GAA, and a .928 save %. He’s looked solid all season long and will spend at least another year in Binghamton. He’s someone who could become a solid goaltender for the Devils in the future.
Ken Appleby split time with Blackwood in Albany this season; he was undrafted but the Devils signed him to a three-year, entry-level contract back in October 2015. He played three seasons with the Oshawa Generals (OHL); he had a 2.42 GAA and a .901 save % in 92 regular season games, and a 2.645 GAA and about a .908 save % in 22 playoff games. He won the Memorial Cup with the Generals in 2014-15, and was also named to the Memorial Cup All-Star Team and OHL Second All-Star Team. He was also named the Memorial Cup’s Most Outstanding Goaltender, had the lowest team GAA (which awarded him the Dave Pinkney Trophy), and had the Best GAA (2.08). So he has an impressive junior resume.
He’s played parts of two seasons with Albany; he’s posted an overall 2.61 GAA and .9035 save % in 40 regular season games. He’s played one playoff game (3.61 GAA, .800 save %). He went 17-14-0 this past season with a 2.63 GAA and a .903 save % in 32 games played. He’s also played parts of two seasons with the Adirondack Thunder (ECHL) and he backed up Schneider for a game with New Jersey this past season (and he just looked really happy to be there). He’ll play at least another season with Binghamton, just like Blackwood, and both of them will continue to develop and get experience so that they’re ready for the big show (when the time comes).
Evan Cormier was selected by the Devils 105th overall in last year’s draft; he’s played in the OHL for the last four seasons for both the North Bay Battalion and the Saginaw Spirit. He was also named an OHL All-Star this past season and was on the OHL Second All-Rookie Team in 2014-15. His career OHL regular season numbers: a 2.73 GAA and a .906 save % in 140 games. He’s played eight OHL playoff games and his numbers aren’t so great there (6.26 GAA and .860 save %). He could also use a ton of development and he looks promising but he’s played four seasons with the OHL; he’d have to play for Binghamton this upcoming season and I don’t know if he will; the Devils have three goalies on their roster (Wedgewood, Blackwood, Appleby). They might find a way to trade him to a team that needs a goalie. As much as I would love for him to stay with the organization, I don’t know if it’s going to happen.
So the Devils do have a ton of goaltending depth. You have your main goalies in Schneider and Kinkaid, and potential backups/starters down the line in Wedgewood, Blackwood, and Appleby. New Jersey might consider selecting another goaltender this year if and only if there’s someone who they really, really like but I wouldn’t prioritize it. The offseason should be exciting. Will Kinkaid resign with the Devils or no? Who will the Devils expose and potentially lose? Who becomes their backup next season under Schneider? Only time will tell.
(Shameless plug: additionally, if you want more on the Devils’ goaltending situation, there’s a post here!)