The NHL offseason is the most pivotal time for teams to address key issues on their roster and acquire new talent via the draft or free agency. This offseason, in particular, will be crucial for the New Jersey Devils, and they must address many areas to get them back into the playoffs. General manager Tom Fitzgerald and newly-appointed head coach Sheldon Keefe have a lot on their plate to get their talented team to return to form this summer.

Devils Must Acquire a High-Level Goaltender

Acquiring a high-level goaltender has been New Jersey’s number-one priority since last offseason. This has been the Devils’ most glaring hole for years — they haven’t had an elite goaltender since Cory Schneider. In the past four seasons, at least 12 different goaltenders have played at least one game. Only two have played more than 80 games for the team — in 2021-22, seven different goalies started games — all due to unlucky veteran acquisitions like Corey Crawford and Jonathan Bernier, untimely injuries, or just a lack of true talent.

At the NHL Scouting Combine earlier this week, Fitzgerald focused on assets that will help his team now and in the future. He has made it clear that he would be willing to move the number-10 pick for the right price. Despite the many talented players who could be available at 10 — such as Berkley Catton, Konsta Helenius, and Michael Brandsegg-Nygard — the team’s clear direction is win-now mode, so it’s easy to see why they would be willing to move the pick, and they need to find a way to maximize the value of the pick to fill a position of need: goaltender.

If the Devils want to get anywhere close to the playoffs, as they did last season, they need a better goaltender. Jake Allen, acquired at the 2024 Trade Deadline, showed excellent promise as an anchor who can serve as a solid 1B option or excellent backup but he alone can not fix the bigger picture of the goaltending dilemma. Trading for one of the more talented goaltenders like Juuse Saros or Linus Ullmark would provide some much-needed stability between the pipes and solidify the team as a contender.

Devils Must Flesh Out the Team’s Depth

The Devils have the makings of a contender with all the elite, young talent they’ve drafted and acquired over the past couple of years. They already have star players at forward and on defense to fill out their top-six and top-four pairings. Yet, another glaring issue arose that hit the team harder than expected. Compared to the 2022-23 season, when the Devils returned to the playoffs, they didn’t have as much of a supporting cast around their star talent.

The team saw the departure of some secretly important players, such as Damon Severson, Ryan Graves, Yegor Sharangovich, Tomáš Tatar, and Miles Wood. Those names might not jump off the page, but they played key roles at deeper positions in the lineup that season and left major holes when they departed. Even this season, the Devils had to trade Colin Miller and Tyler Toffoli (who Sharangovich was traded for in the offseason) who both made impacts in their short stints with the team.

Miles Wood, Michael McLeod, and Vitek Vanecek of the New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Devils have almost $19 million in cap space and six draft picks to work with this offseason. The team’s only notable player to worry about extending is restricted free agent Dawson Mercer, so management can actively flesh out the roster with added depth. They need to fill key positions in the bottom-six forward group and add a couple of defensemen. Some notable players hitting free agency for the Devils to consider are Brady Skjej, William Carrier, and Warren Foegle. There are also a ton of players the Devils could explore via trade, but that will come down to who is available in the offseason.

Devils Must Recover From Injuries

This season, the Devils suffered significant man games lost to injury. The most significant was to the team’s top defenseman, Dougie Hamilton, who suffered a pectoral muscle injury only 20 games into the season. This was a big blow. As a result, younger defensemen Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec had to take on larger roles earlier than expected.

Also, Timo Meier played through a multitude of injuries. On April 23, he had elective arthroscopic surgery, and throughout the season, he dealt with MCL problems and an oblique injury. The same goes for Jack Hughes, who, on April 9, underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. Both’s major injuries affected their scoring and made it harder for the team as a whole to up their offensive production.

It will be essential for these three players to take as much time as they need this offseason to rehabilitate and get back in shape. Although injuries can’t be predicted or completely prevented, being as healthy will make it easier for the team to start next season strong. Availability is the best ability, and the Devils will need that.

Considering all the factors, the Devils have a lot to accomplish this offseason. This will arguably be the most important offseason for then in recent history, as it is now or never if they want to fulfill their promise of going full win-now mode. The front office will do everything in their power to fill out this roster and get them back to playoff contention. Acquiring an elite goalie, solidifying their depth, and recovering from injuries will be huge steps to bouncing back next season. The team as a whole has a lot of great building blocks they’ve worked on through their long yet thorough rebuild. Their success in the 2022-23 season showed this team’s potential to be a serious contender for the Stanley Cup in the coming years.

Other Devils’ Offseason Articles:

Devils’ 2024 Offseason Trade Targets: Forward

Devils’ 2024 Offseason Trade Targets: Defensemen

3 Bottom-Six Free Agent Targets for the Devils

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