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The New Jersey Devils’ organizational goaltending situation

Credit: Scott Kinville

The 2024 NHL Trade Deadline has come and gone, and the New Jersey Devils added to an already crowded goaltending corps.

The 2023-24 season has not gone as well for the New Jersey Devils as they thought it would.

Coming into the season, there were high expectations for the team that calls the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ home. The 2023 playoffs saw them defeat the New York Rangers in the first round, thanks in large part to Akira Schmid – a goaltender they drafted in 2018 who had spent his professional career to that point playing for the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League. The Devil’s rebuild back to prominence appeared to be over.

One particular problem the Devils organization has had over the past few seasons has been goaltending depth. Each season, the organization seemed to be ravaged by injuries at the position from New Jersey down through Utica (AHL) and Adirondack (ECHL).

As a result, the Devils sought to make sure they had enough goaltenders in the organization during the offseason. They signed 2022 draft pick Tyler Brennan to an entry-level contract as soon as the season ended. When free agency opened, they signed Erik Källgren and Keith Kinkaid to NHL contracts and assigned them to the AHL, with Källgren going to Utica and Kinkaid being loaned to the Chicago Wolves for the season.

When 2023-24 began, the Devils appeared to be set in the crease throughout the organization. Schmid and Vitek Vanecek were the goaltenders in New Jersey, Källgren and Isaac Poulter in Utica, Kinkaid in Chicago, and Brennan in Adirondack. Nico Daws, also under an entry-level contract, returned from offseason surgery in mid-December and was to be assigned to Utica.

All contract information is via https://capfriendly.com.

Sometimes, even the best-laid plans go awry, and that is what happened to the New Jersey Devils this season. Vanecek and Schmid did not build on the success of the season before, while Källgren struggled (and was subsequently injured) in Utica.

Isaac Poulter was a bright spot in what had otherwise been a tough season. He was arguably Utica’s best player through the first half of the season and earned an NHL contract. Poulter even got a brief call-up to New Jersey.

Daws was recalled to New Jersey just three games after making his season debut for Utica on December 8. With the struggles of Schmid and Vanecek (who was also injured in February), Daws has remained in the Garden State.

The Trade Deadline

With their playoff hopes fading, the New Jersey Devils decided to revamp their goaltending at the NHL level. On March 8, they acquired Jake Allen from the Montreal Canadiens for a conditional third-round draft pick. Later in the day, they turned to a team they had pulled off a blockbuster trade with last season – the San Jose Sharks. The Devils traded Vanecek and a seventh-round draft pick to the Sharks in exchange for goaltender Kaapo Kähkönen.

The acquisitions of Allen and Kähkönen have created a logjam in the goaltending position throughout the Devils organization. They now have eight netminders under NHL contracts: Allen, Kähkönen, Daws, Schmid, Källgren, Kinkaid, Poulter, and Brennan. With that many goaltenders, playing time could become scarce for a few of them.

Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald has already stated that Allen and Kähkönen will be New Jersey’s goaltending tandem for the rest of the season (barring injuries of course). One of the purposes of bringing in both netminders was to send Daws and Schmid to Utica to get more playing time, he noted. Schmid is already back with the Comets and Daws should be joining him soon.

With Schmid and Daws back in Utica, that will give them four goaltenders on the roster. It’s possible Poulter or Källgren could get sent to Adirondack if the organization feels the need for them to get playing time, but I don’t believe that is likely. Brennan will need playing time to continue his development, and Jeremy Brodeur has played very well for the Thunder.

The Devils might simply ride out the four remaining weeks of the regular season with Daws, Schmid, Poulter, and Källgren in Utica and Kinkaid playing for Chicago. Källgren, Kinkaid, and Kähkönen are free agents at the end of the season, with Källgren and Kinkaid especially probably not coming back. Daws and Schmid will also be restricted free agents but will very likely be retained. This offseason will determine how the rest of the goaltending corps shakes out.

For more information about the Utica Comets, including schedules and ticketing, please visit https://uticacomets.com.

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