The New Jersey Devils have added more depth behind Mackenzie Blackwood. They recently re-signed their backup goalie, Scott Wedgwood, to a one-year, two-way contract. He is expected to make $825,000 at the NHL level and $375,000 at the AHL level. Wedgewood appeared in 16 games and had a record of 3-8-3 during the 2020-21 season. He also had a goals-against average (GAA) of 3.11 while maintaining a .900 save percentage (SV%). While his numbers weren’t spectacular, he was still able to provide the Devils with some solid production at the netminder position.
Despite his lackluster production towards the end of the season, Wedgewood was still able to show small glimpses of potential. His ability to lead the team in shutouts (two) is a good example. Blackwood was only able to muster up one shutout this past season. So, this move was somewhat expected, especially with the Seattle Kraken’s expansion draft fast approaching.
Wedgewood’s 2020-21 Season Backstory?
Given the circumstances that Wedgewood had to face this past year, he should definitely be appreciated for his hard work and determination. Before the start of the season, Wedgewood was originally signed to be the third-string goalie for Blackwood and Corey Crawford. However, Crawford abruptly retired before the start of the season. This unexpected event forced Wedgewood to become the backup goalie until the Devils could find a replacement for Crawford.
To make matters worse, just three games into the season, Blackwood was placed onto the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list due to a positive test. At the time, the Devils had claimed former San Jose Sharks backup goalie Aaron Dell from waivers via the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, since he was coming from a Canadian team, he was forced to be sidelined before making his Devils debut. This was due to, once again, the COVID-19 protocol.
So, with all of those unfortunate circumstances that took place, this gave Wedgewood a golden opportunity to demonstrate his ability. He was able to hold his ground for the most part, especially during the beginning of the year. It’s worth mentioning that, before this season, the last time that Wedgewood played in an NHL game was in 2018 for the Arizona Coyotes. So, there weren’t really high expectations for Wedgewood coming into the season since he was a career minor leaguer. However, he was able to exceed expectations to an extent, as he was able to flash his true potential.
In his season debut, he was able to stop 31/35 shot opportunities against the New York Islanders. Even though the Devils lost that game 4-1, three of those four goals that were let up were not on Wedgwood’s shoulders because two of them came via the Islanders’ power play, while the other came from an open breakaway due to an offensive lapse by the Devils.
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So, he was able to make a solid first impression. In his second appearance of the season, he captured a 2-0 shutout victory against the New York Islanders. His overall solid production in his first few appearances kept them afloat temporarily in terms of the lowest GAA. The Devils were ranked in the top 10 for a decent amount of time. Things started to change for Wedgewood once Dell was ready to begin his tenure with the Devils, and also Blackwood’s health starting to improve.
This once again bumped him to the third-string goalie position temporarily. However, Dell had a lackluster 2020-21 season with the Devils in which he finished off the year with a record of 1-5-0, to go along with a GAA of 4.14 and an abysmal .857 SV%. Even though Blackwood appeared in 35 games, he still had to deal with nagging injuries throughout the course of the year. As a result, Wedgewood was able to retain his role.
Does He Deserve Another Chance?
Even though he wasn’t able to finish out the season on a high note, Wedgewood was still able to surprise many people. It seems as though the NHL was aware of his valiant efforts. Because due to his unexpected season, he was nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. That is an award given to the NHL player that best exemplifies the qualities of dedication, sportsmanship, and perseverance. However, the award was rightfully won by Philadelphia Flyers’ forward, Oskar Lindblom. He made a triumphant return to the NHL last year after battling bone cancer.
Despite Wedgewood’s steady decline to close out the season, the fan base still seems to appreciate his overall effort. He hadn’t played in an NHL game in almost three seasons, yet he was tasked to be the starting goalie for a string of games, and then he had to remain as a backup for Blackwood.
However, this time around, it can be anticipated that the Devils re-signed him to be the third-string goalie permanently. It seems as though the Devils are searching for a more steady backup option for Blackwood. However, Wedgwood definitely deserves a lot of credit and respect for what he was able to do, given the circumstances and overall narrative that he had to deal with. He can only get better with time, and he has shown tremendous growth and improvement in just a short amount of time.
While he didn’t dress in a single game for them, he was a part of the Tampa Lightning’s championship roster last year, so he provides the organization with a little bit of championship pedigree. The timing of this signing is no coincidence either because, with the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft fast approaching, they can now expose a goalie in the draft.
Because they certainly do not want to risk exposing somebody like Blackwood in the draft. However, given his limited abilities and stats, it’s doubtful that the Kraken will pick up Wedgewood, especially given the options available. However, there’s no guarantee that Wedgewood will be the goaltender exposed in the draft because Eric Comrie is also eligible to be exposed. So, given both plausible outcomes, it can be safely assumed that Wedgewood will get to play at least one more season in the Prudential Center for the Devils.
So, in terms of his future, fans can anticipate him not appearing in as many games as he did this past season. This signing won’t affect the Devils long-term, but the signing is definitely well-deserved on Wedgewood’s end. Because due to his backstory and hard work to get to this point in his career, he certainly deserved another NHL opportunity.
Trey Matthews is currently the play-by-play announcer for the hockey programs at Adrian College. Interestingly, he is also one of the only full-time black hockey play-by-play announcers in the entire country. He has been featured in USA Today, USCHO, & others for his line of work. In addition to that, he’s also the host of a podcast show called Locked On Devils. He first began writing for his high school’s paper at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School & Academy. Aside from hockey, he also covers the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) for Belly Up Sports.