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Meet the Buyers: The New Jersey Devils need a goaltender, and Jacob Markström could be their guy

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Photo credit:© John Jones - USA Today
Ryley Delaney
4 months ago
The team we’ll look at today had talks with the Calgary Flames about a certain goaltender.
This is Meet the Buyers, where we look at teams that are contenders for the Stanley Cup, and what they need to improve their chances. The Calgary Flames have two players – Chris Tanev and Noah Hanifin – set to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. Moreover, the Flames could flip Andrei Kuzmenko or Yegor Sharangovich for a maximum return at this season’s deadline, but it’s unlikely.
In this edition, we’ll look at the New Jersey Devils, along with their needs, their assets, and the cap situation of both teams.

The needs of the New Jersey Devils

Goaltending, goaltending, goaltending. That is the need of the New Jersey Devils as of late. In fact, in recent weeks, it’s been reported by insiders such as Frank Seravalli, Elliotte Friedman, and Pierre LeBrun that the two teams went pretty far into discussions for Flames netminder Jacob Markström.
Devils’ netminder Vítek Vaněček has played the majority of the team’s games, posting a 17-9-3 record in 32 games played, along with an .890 save percentage and a 3.18 goals-against average. 
The second-most games played is by Akira Schmid, who has an .893 save percentage and a 3.26 goals-against average in 15 games played. Nico Daws has also appeared in 11 games and has a .909 save percentage and a 2.93 goals-against average. This is to say that the Devils goaltending situation is precarious at best.
On the other hand, Markström has a .916 save percentage and a 2.50 goals-against average in 33 games played this season, including a 17-14-2 record. If not for Markström, the Flames wouldn’t be in the midst of the wild card race.
Whether or not the Flames and Devils will re-engage in talks is a different story. Daily Faceoff’s Seravalli believes that based on how it played out, the two teams likely won’t revisit it, as the Devils are also looking elsewhere. Sportsnet’s Friedman isn’t quite sure whether the two teams will discuss the trade again, while during the latest Insider Trading, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun said that the Devils have not given up hope of making a trade.
Although they may hear different things regarding the two teams re-entering negotiations, it’s pretty evident that the reason that the trade fell through was due the Devils wanting the Flames to retain a part of Markström’s $6 million cap hit until the end of the 2025-26 season.
There’s also a case that the Devils could use a defenceman. In mid-January, Seravalli released an article for Daily Faceoff that gave a blueprint for what all the Eastern Conference teams should do at the deadline. In that article, Seravalli believes that the Devils need to improve the blue line, which has dealt with departures and injuries. As you can imagine, Tanev and Hanifin fit in some capacity.
With all that being said, who could the Devils trade to the Flames?

What assets do the New Jersey Devils have to offer

The once great farm system of the Devils has dwindled in recent seasons due to prospects making the team. In their mid-season ranking, The Hockey Writers have the Devils as the 19th-best farm system in the league. On the other hand, The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler has them ranked as the 22nd-best farm system.
The top five Devil prospects according to both The Hockey Writers and Wheeler are Šimon Nemec, Seamus Casey, Arseni Gritsyuk, Lenni Hämeenaho, and Graeme Clarke. Let’s take a look at these five prospects.
Nemec was selected with the second-overall pick in the 2022 draft and won’t be traded. Why? Well, the 20-year-old right-shot defender has two goals and 14 points in 32 games for the Devils this season and has a ton of potential. Also, removing an important defenceman from the roster would be foolish for the Devils at this time.
Casey is a right-shot defenceman that was selected in the second-round of the 2022 draft. Playing for the University of Michigan, he has five goals and 35 points in 29 games, surpassing the 29 points he had in 37 games as a freshman. The 20-year-old stands at 5’9”, 162 pounds and won the gold medal with the United States at the 2024 World Juniors, assisting on six goals in six games.
Gritsyuk was selected in the fifth-round of the 2019 draft and still plays in Russia with St. Petersburg SKA of the Kontinental Hockey League. In just 46 games, the 22-year-old winger has set a career-high in goals with 19, and is just two points shy of matching his career-high of 40 points that was set in 2022-23.
Hämeenaho was the Devils’ first pick in the 2023 draft, as he was selected with the 58th-overall pick. Playing for Porin Ässät in SM-Liiga in Finland, the 19-year-old right-winger has 12 goals and 25 points in 36 games. He played for Finland during the 2024 World Juniors, and scored four goals and six points, leading the team in the former category.
Clarke was selected in the third-round of the 2019 draft, and played a game for the Devils in 2023-24. The 2022-23 season was his breakout season, scoring 25 goals and 58 points in 68 games. In 2023, he has 18 goals and 35 points in 43 games and is on pace for 29 goals and 56 points if he plays the remaining 27 games.
Per Puckpedia, the Devils have their first-round and third-round picks for the 2024 draft, as well as a handful of lower-round picks from other teams. The only pick the Devils are missing after the 2024 draft is their 2025 fifth-round pick.

The cap situation of both teams

As of Feb. 17, the Devils have $1,958,880 in current cap space, with a projected cap space of $381,632 at the end of the year. In early December, former Flame Dougie Hamilton underwent surgery for a torn pectoral muscle (ow) and will be out for three to four months. He’s the only player on the long-term injured reserve, with the Devils having $8,995,447 on the LTIR pool, according to Puckpedia.
If the Flames do trade Markström, they have all three retention spots available, meaning that they can retain up to 50% of his $6 million salary. However, whatever percentage that the Flames retain will count towards their cap hit over the next two seasons. With that being said, the Devils would have to give up a significant asset depending on how much the Flames retain.

In conclusion

The fact that the Devils are still keen on landing him, as well as other experienced goaltenders with term is encouraging. It’s never great trading a great goaltender, but with Dustin Wolf needing to play in the National Hockey League soon and Markström’s value never being higher, moving him for a serious haul could help the Flames in the long-term.
Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D.

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