The New Jersey Devils head into the summer of 2013 with plenty of work to do with their current roster. They have a few key free agents still in need of contracts before they can begin addressing their other areas of need, namely the offense. But there is another glaring weakness on this team that could use some addressing: the goaltending.
More specifically, it’s the man behind Martin Brodeur, not the starter. Many of the struggles that the Devils encountered over the course of the season were not the fault of Brodeur, and the Devils aren’t about to demote or cut him loose in the final year or two of his career.
No, what the Devils need to put some serious consideration into is bringing in a man to play behind him that is not Johan Hedberg. Like Brodeur, Hedberg is an over-the-hill goaltender, at the age of 40, but has never played at the level that we’ve seen Brodeur maintain over the course of his career. His 2013 season was particularly painful to watch.
He was decent at times, but overall Hedberg was unable to hold down the net effectively when Brodeur was out with an injury early in the season. He posted an .883 save percentage on the year, and a goals against average of 2.76. In the event that Brodeur goes down again, or needs a break (since he’s old), Hedberg isn’t exactly a source of reliability.
The Devils have money to spend, and there are options out there. They could go with someone like Ray Emery, who was fantastic as a backup in Chicago this year and will likely leave as a free agent. Thomas Greiss and Anton Khudobin present younger options. If they want a veteran presence behind their veteran goaltender, for whatever reason, Jose Theodore will be on the market as well.
There will be options available for the Devils in free agency this summer, many of which provide an upgrade over their current backup. While Hedberg is under contract next year, that doesn’t necessarily mean his job is safe. Expect the Devils to at least add some competition for Hedberg, if not replace him entirely.