Big goaltending moves were again hard to come by at the NHL trade deadline

Updated Mar. 8, 2024 6:21 p.m. ET

All season, Tom Fitzgerald has been looking to upgrade the goaltending situation for the New Jersey Devils. Those talks went nowhere until Friday, when they were the most active NHL team in that department.

The Devils acquired Jake Allen from Montreal, sent injured Vitek Vanecek to San Jose for pending free agent backup Kaapo Kahkonen and still did not land the front-line starter they've been looking for. Only a handful of goalies changed places before the deadline, a source of frustration for some but also a precursor to what could be an active offseason.

“Teams with goalies don’t need to move them unless they’re maybe ready to hit free agency and they’re going to lose a goalie so you want to grab some assets for him,” Fitzgerald said. “But this opportunity this offseason gives us a chance to look at the market, what’s going to be available this summer and really add something that we haven’t had here in a while. That’s the goal.”

New Jersey has the third-worst save percentage in the league, and that inability to keep the puck out of its net has sunk the team's playoff hopes and cost coach Lindy Ruff his job. Getting Allen could help steady the crease for the rest of this season and also next, with the Canadiens picking up half his $3.85 million salary.


By June, there could be a plethora of options available, from Anaheim's John Gibson to Nashville's Juuse Saros or Boston's Linus Ullmark. Calgalry's Jacob Markstrom had been on the Devils' radar for a while, but a deal for him or any other clear-cut No. 1 goalie did not materialize in time.

Not wanting to give up prized prospects like defenseman Simon Nemec, the Devils instead turned to Allen, who had to waive his no-trade clause. The cost was a conditional 2025 third-round pick that becomes a second-rounder if Allen appears in 40-plus games next season and his team makes the playoffs.

“There is a market,” Fitzgerald said. “People performing have set that market. All I’m trying to do is be fair in that market, but you also need a team that wants to make fair deals, too, versus just extorting you for every big asset you have. I think we were smart about it.”

The other goalies traded were for organizational depth. Florida got journeyman Magnus Hellberg from Pittsburgh for minor-leaguer Ludovic Waeber, and Columbus acquired Malcolm Subban from St. Louis for future considerations.

Ullmark, Markstrom, Minnesota's Marc-Andre Fleury and Washington's Charlie Lindgren stayed put. The deadline is usually not the time to get a goalie, and that proved again to be true.

“I think it’s tough for teams to bring in new (goalies) and assimilate and learn how to play a different style or for a different team,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. “I think if your goalie is running hot for you, you’re not moving him. If he’s not running hot, nobody is looking to trade for him, so consequently, I don’t think they happen much at the deadline.”