It’s been a while since we’ve done a New Jersey Devils news and rumors roundup. And with the draft less than two weeks away, now is a good time to catch up. In his latest edition of Slap Shots, The New York Post’s Larry Brooks mentioned that chatter from multiple industry sources indicates the Devils will pursue goaltender Jack Campbell in free agency.
In other news, Brooks also mentioned that New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev could be of interest to the Devils. Finally, two Eastern Conference teams might have serious interest in acquiring Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nicolas Hague. Let’s get to it to start the new week.
Campbell Would Provide Devils With an Upgrade
The Devils had a team save percentage (SV%) of .881 this season, so it’s no surprise they’re in the market for at least one goaltender this summer. The Fourth Period already connected them to Ville Husso. Now Brooks and The New York Post have tied them to Campbell and Georgiev. Let’s start with Campbell, who’s among the top three unrestricted free agent goaltenders this summer.
It took some time for Campbell to live up to being the 11th overall pick from the 2010 draft, but he’s come into his own in his time with the Los Angeles Kings and Toronto Maple Leafs. In his two-plus seasons in Toronto, he finished with a .916 SV% in 77 games. Before then, with the Kings, he totaled a .918 SV% in 57 games, so he has a solid résumé.
Campbell has some solid underlying numbers as well. Over the last three seasons, he’s stopped .920 percent of the shots he’s faced at five-on-five, the same as Jake Oettinger, Frederik Andersen and Husso. However, there is one concern with Campbell, and that’s his ability to stop high-danger shots. Since the start of 2019-20, his high-danger SV% of .799 ranks 75th for goaltenders with at least 1000 minutes logged at five-on-five. That puts him in the same company as Kaapo Kahkonen, Ilya Samsonov, and Malcolm Subban. The year-to-year breakdown isn’t great either:
- 2019-20: .799
- 2020-21: .832
- 2021-22: .786
Aside from 2020-21, Campbell’s stopped less than 80 percent of the high-danger shots he’s faced. His ten-game rolling average paints a bit of a mixed picture for this past season as well:
- Games 1-10: .895
- 11-20: .821
- 21-30: .683
- 31-40: .759
- 40-49: .769
The better NHL netminders stop around .825 to .840 percent of the high-danger shots they face at five-on-five. At all strengths, it’s close to .815 to .830. Campbell’s is below .800 percent at both game states, but his numbers do look good otherwise. He’s good on the penalty kill and stops low- and medium-danger chances at a high level.
For someone who’s probably going to command a contract worth over $5 million a year for three to four years, Campbell’s high-danger SV% numbers are definitely a concern. Hopefully, that’s something the Devils can help him improve if they sign him because otherwise, he’s easily an upgrade for them.
Georgiev a Potential 1B?
When mentioning Campbell, Brooks also noted that the Devils could look to deal for his negotiating rights, with Mackenzie Blackwood possibly going to the Maple Leafs. That means they’d have to find another goaltender behind Campbell, which is where Georgiev could come in.
Georgiev did not have a great 2021-22, finishing with a .898 SV%. However, it wasn’t all bad. He finished with a .914 SV% at five-on-five and had a plus-1.76 goals save above expected at that game state. His high-danger SV% of .811 was higher than Campbell’s, so why the struggles? Georgiev had a career-worst season on the penalty kill, which dragged down his numbers.
When looking at his last three seasons, Georgiev’s numbers are fine but nothing special. He has a five-on-five SV% of .916 and a high-danger SV% of .809. He’s given up 156 goals on 154.05 expected goals against, so he’s essentially stopped what’s expected of him at even strength. His save percentages at all strengths are more or less the same, though his GSAx falls to minus-10.65.
With that said, it wasn’t long ago that Georgiev was a league-average goaltender. In his three previous seasons, he had a goals saved above average of 3.6 and .911 SV%. Brooks mentioned the Devils would be interested in Georgiev as part of a tandem and not as a 1A, which makes sense if they acquire someone like Campbell and move Blackwood. The Devils would only need him to be a league-average goaltender if that’s the case, and if he can rebound on the penalty kill, he still has that potential.
Georgiev is a restricted free agent this summer and reportedly asked for a trade a year ago. Unless the Rangers don’t qualify him and he ends up as a UFA, the Devils would have to trade for him. Brooks noted it wouldn’t be cheap since the two teams are crosstown rivals, though he’d personally like Michael McLeod for the Rangers if they traded Georgiev’s negotiating rights to the Devils.
McLeod is a solid player for what he is, but fourth-line centers are the easiest to replace on a roster. If the Devils are that set on Georgiev as a 1B option, that’s not a high price to pay. He shouldn’t be too expensive to re-sign, either, as Evolving Hockey projects a two-year bridge deal at a cap hit of $2.429 million. Time will tell what the Devils’ tandem looks like to start next season, but it sure appears it could have a much different makeup.
Hague Could Interest the Devils
Yesterday morning, The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy tweeted that two Eastern Conference teams are seriously interested in acquiring Nic Hague from the Golden Knights. The 23-year-old defenseman is a restricted free agent and needs a new contract this offseason, but the Golden Knights are in a cap crunch and may not have the space to re-sign him.
Hague is a pretty intriguing defenseman, especially for a player built like him. At 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, you’d think he’s a physical, bruising player, but that’s not the case. He excels in transition and creating offense off the rush, which is how the Devils like to play. He’s also a very high-volume shooter for a defenseman, as he averaged 2.23 shots on goal this past season. And for someone who’s 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, he’s a very good skater. His counting totals might not suggest it, but he’s more of an offensive defenseman and has provided good value offensively at even strength over the last three seasons:
Though Hague has yet to break out, he’s only 23 years old and doesn’t turn 24 until December. Bigger defensemen sometimes take a few years before they hit their stride in the NHL, but his underlying numbers suggest that could be coming. Evolving-Hockey predicts a two-year bridge deal at a cap hit of $2.095 million for Hague. That might not seem like much, but that’s how tight the Golden Knights are on cap space, even after acquiring Shea Weber’s contract for long-term injured reserve (LTIR) purposes.
As for what it’d take to acquire Hague, I wouldn’t rule out the Devils sending Ty Smith the other way. The Golden Knights would get someone on an entry-level contract they could fit into their salary cap that still has potential even though he had a rough second year in the NHL.
At the same time, I could see the Devils not wanting to give up on Smith just yet since he’s still so young. Perhaps a couple of draft picks, something along the lines of a second and fourth-round pick, would get the job done. But either way, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Devils were one of the teams interested in Hague. They’re likely familiar with him from his days with the Mississauga Steelheads when he played with current Devils Nathan Bastian and McLeod, so it’s something to watch once the offseason kicks into high gear.
That wraps up this edition of Devils news and rumors. We’re just ten days away from the NHL Draft, so make sure to stay tuned to The Hockey Writers for the latest coverage over the next few weeks.
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Alex Chauvancy is a New Jersey Devils writer for The Hockey Writers who has a penchant for advanced stats, prospects, signings and trades. He previously wrote for Devils Army Blog, a New Jersey Devils fan blog, from 2015-2017