3 early predictions for the Devils at the NHL Trade Deadline

The New Jersey Devils will look to fix some of their glaring holes at the NHL Trade Deadline. Here's how they could do it.

Dec 23, 2023; Newark, New Jersey, USA; New Jersey Devils goaltender Vitek Vanecek (41) sprays water
Dec 23, 2023; Newark, New Jersey, USA; New Jersey Devils goaltender Vitek Vanecek (41) sprays water / Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
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After an extremely promising 2022-23 season, the New Jersey Devils looked like legitimate Stanley Cup contenders entering this season. The Devils have one of, if not the best young cores in the NHL and added Tyler Toffoli in a big offseason trade giving them yet another elite goal scorer.

Unfortunately, things have not gone to plan at all for New Jersey. The Devils 17-13-2, good for 36 points in their first 32 games. They sit in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division and are four points out of a playoff spot.

No, their season is not over, but the Devils have a lot of work cut out for them as they try and not only make the playoffs but make some noise if/when they get there. For them to be the playoff team everyone expected them to be, they're going to have to be active at the trade deadline. There's no reason to expect GM Tom Fitzgerald to not be active when they have glaring needs.

Here are three predictions for how the Devils will navigate a crucial deadline.

3. The Devils will improve in goal, fixing their biggest weakness

When looking at this Devils team, it's become abundantly clear that their biggest weakness comes between the pipes. The Devils are allowing 3.56 goals per game, good for 29th in the league. Their .888 save percentage ranks 28th in the league. For a team trying to win now, that's nowhere near good enough.

Vitek Vanecek's .884 save percentage is the worst in the NHL among goaltenders with more than 15 games played. Akira Schmid's .893 save percentage is slightly better, but still nowhere near where New Jersey needs to be. Some of the goaltending struggles can be attributed to poor defense, but Vanecek has allowed -8.8 goals saved above expected, good for 78th among the 82 goaltenders who have appeared in the NHL this season. Schmid's -3.9 goals saved above expected is good for 64th according to Money Puck. They're not making the saves they should be making.

Fortunately for New Jersey, they have several goaltenders they can look into acquiring. Additionally, Dougie Hamilton's injury forcing him onto LTIR allows the Devils to use his $9.3 million at the deadline to allow this goaltender and fit him under the cap.

Who the Devils acquire is anyone's best guess. John Gibson is the dream, but he's the dream for many other teams. Guys like Jacob Markstrom, Jake Allen, and Elvis Merzlikins are others who make a whole lot of sense for this Devils team. The Devils don't need Vezina-caliber goaltending, just find an upgrade. It won't be hard.