The New Jersey Devils announced on Wednesday that they have re-signed former Barrie Colts netminder Mackenzie Blackwood to a three-year deal. The deal will pay the Canadian $2.8 million a year, a fair price to pay for a starting calibre goaltender, who still has room to grow and develop.
Had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic, I believe the Thunder Bay native could have earned north of $4 million in the near future. Under goaltending coach Dave Rogalski, Blackwood’s development is in the right hands.
Having Blackwood under contract for the next three seasons gives the Devils a lot of certainty and stability between the pipes. Having veteran goaltender Corey Crawford signed for the next two seasons, Blackwood will get the chance to learn from a two-time Stanley Cup champion, who has the knowledge and experience to help Blackwood develop into a starter.
In front of Mackenzie Blackwood, the Devils are currently focused on developing their group of defensive prospects. Ty Smith is expected to be NHL ready, which will be a valuable addition to the Devils blue-line. Reilly Walsh will likely need some tuning-up time before making the jump to the NHL roster. Kevin Bahl is big and physically built and will spend next season with the Binghamton Devils.
Playing in the American Hockey League will help to add experience and improve his game at a higher level. Nikita Okhotyuk, another OHL defender, will need time to spend some time growing in Binghamton as well.
What this means for GM Tom Fitzgerald is that when the opportunity presents itself where teams trying to be cap compliant need to make a move, the Devils could be well suited to make a trade. I can infer that the New Jersey is listening to offers, and The Fourth Period has Kyle Palmieri on their trade list, with teams such as Colorado, Calgary, New York, Nashville, Edmonton and Columbus being potential suitors.
I’m sure Tom Fitzgerald will find a way to make a deal happen to benefit the Devils defensive corps this season. Acquiring some sound defensive players that will help improve New Jersey’s blue-line is something that the team is looking for as they begin to wrap up their rebuild. What makes sense is that Tom Fitzgerald is going for players mainly under 30-years-old and RFA’s to trade for or those who are under contract.
Making sure he doesn’t start away from the vision that he is looking to construct in New Jersey, Fitzgerald will not be in on everyone. He will specifically be looking for players that fit the system and have high potential. A centreman is expected to be on his radar, with Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes part of the his long-term plans a key part of the team’s vision.