If the New Jersey Devils are going to build their team into a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, there's one position where they need to improve greatly: goaltender. And they need to get better in the net fast.
During the 2021-22 season, the Devils had seven players make starts at goaltender for them. None of those netminders had a goals against average better than 3.11. Their team GAA of 3.64 ranked 29th in the NHL.
New Jersey currently has two goaltenders under contract for the 2022-23 campaign: Mackenzie Blackwood (3.39 goals against average and .892 save percentage in 25 games last season) and Jonathan Bernier (3.06 goals against average and .902 save percentage in 10 games). Neither is likely to be a long-term solution at the position, especially the 33-year-old Bernier. Blackwood is 25.
The Devils need to add a goaltender this offseason, whether that's via free agency or trade. And it appears they may already have their sights set on a target.
According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, they are expected to be "in on" Jack Campbell, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 13 after spending the past two-and-a-half seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs. New Jersey may not wait until then to make its move, either.
"We're told by one informant that New Jersey may attempt to jump the process by dealing for the 30-year-old's rights if the Maple Leafs cannot or will not extend the netminder," Brooks wrote.
If that's the case, the Devils will ensure they can try to sign Campbell before he hits the market and is free to negotiate with any team. Should New Jersey be successful, he would immediately become its top goaltender.
Last season, the Port Huron, Michigan native played in a career-high 49 games, recording a 2.64 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. He didn't play more than five NHL games in a season until the 2018-19 campaign when he was 27 and with the Los Angeles Kings, but he's proved to be a reliable netminder in recent years.
Most importantly, Campbell is better than any goaltender on the Devils' roster. Now that he's proved he can handle a larger workload, he should be a solid starting netminder, as long as he can stay healthy after some past injury concerns.
Campbell isn't the only goaltender New Jersey is potentially targeting. Brooks also reported it "could have interest" in Alexandar Georgiev, if he becomes an unrestricted free agent. However, it would likely view the 26-year-old "as part of a tandem operation rather than as a No. 1," per Brooks.
Georgiev has spent his first five NHL seasons with the New York Rangers. He's never played more than 34 games in a season, but he did a solid job as their No. 2 goaltender during the 2021-22 campaign. In 33 games, he had a 2.92 goals against average and an .898 save percentage.
Even though Georgiev is younger than Campbell, he should only be a backup option. The Devils' best move would likely be to trade for Campbell's rights and then work out a deal with him before he becomes a UFA.
If the Maple Leafs aren't planning on trying to bring back Campbell, perhaps they'll even part with his rights at a lower cost.
As long as it's not too high, New Jersey should try to make that deal with Toronto happen, as Campbell could stabilize the position for the Devils for the next few seasons.