What Devils trade for Jacob Markstrom means for Rangers

NHL: New York Rangers at Calgary Flames
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have plenty of their own work to do this offseason. But that doesn’t mean they do their business in a vacuum, because division and conference rivals are also looking to improve their chances of contending for the Stanley Cup in 2024-25.

So, when the New Jersey Devils acquired goalie Jacob Markstrom from the Calgary Flames on Wednesday for defenseman Kevin Bahl and a conditional first-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft, it was an important move in what should be a tight race for supremacy in the Metropolitan Division next season.

The Rangers established franchise records for wins (55) and points (114) this past regular season. That helped them win the division by three points over the Carolina Hurricanes. Three points. That’s it. They also won the Presidents’ Trophy with the best regular-season in franchise history. The Rangers did so because they were a single point better than the Dallas Stars. One point.

So, you get the point, pardon the pun. Every move the Rangers make this offseason, as well as ones made by their rivals, could make the difference in where they finish in the standings next season. Yes, it’s going to be that tight again.

New York’s offseason took a positive turn when veteran forward Barclay Goodrow was claimed off waivers by the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday. That cleared Goodrow’s entire $3.6 million salary cap hit for the next three seasons off the books without any dead money, which would have been the case if they had bought out the 31-year-old.

The Rangers now have $13.65 million in projected cap space.

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Key Rangers rival upgrades goaltending with Jacob Markstrom trade

NHL: New York Rangers at Calgary Flames
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Goodrow news was good for the Rangers because it’s most important because it sets up their next move, providing more cash to pursue a top-six forward in all likelihood. The Devils, though, filled a huge void on their roster Wednesday by acquiring Markstrom.

Though he’s 34 years old, Markstrom should provide the Devils a bonafide No. 1 goalie. That’s something they haven’t had in a long time. In fact, since Tom Fitzgerald became their general manager before the 2020-21 season, the Devils have started 12 different goalies.

New Jersey was able to eliminate New York in seven games in the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs with goalie Akira Schmid the surprise hero. But last season, it was a goalie carousel in New Jersey and its playoff hopes were dashed in large part because they were tied for 26th in the NHL, allowing 3.43 goals against per game. Their goalies combined for a sub .900 save percentage.

Not surprisingly, the Devils finished 10 points out of the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. That’s the same Devils who finished second in the Metropolitan Division the season before with a franchise-record 112 points, five up on the Rangers in 2022-23.

Markstrom was 23-23-2 with a 2.78 goals-against average and .905 save percentage with the Flames last season. In 2021-22, he led the NHL with nine shutouts and had a 2.22 goals-against average and .922 save percentage.

For what it’s worth, Markstrom is 9-4-2 in 16 games against the Rangers with a 2.43 GAA and .916 save percentage, playing for the Flames, Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers.

He may not be an elite goalie any more, but Markstrom is solid and a major upgrade over what Vitek Vanecek and Co. gave the Devils last season. Veteran Jake Allen, acquired ahead of the trade deadline this past season, is a decent veteran backup, which allows Nico Daws and Schmid the chance to hone their games in the AHL.

Simply, there’s a lot to like about this trade for the Devils, including the fact that the Flames are retaining 31 percent of Markstrom’s salary. That means the Devils are on the hook for $4.125 million in salary the next two seasons and still have over $16 million in projected cap space this offseason.

The Devils have loads of talented young forwards, led by Jack Hughes, and a slew of quality young defensemen, with veteran Dougie Hamilton hoping to be healthy again in 2024-25. Now they have a true No. 1 goalie.

It’s a strong start start to the offseason for a key rival, that also hired a new coach in Sheldon Keefe, and is looking to make up ground on the Rangers next season.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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