The New Jersey Devils unexpectedly made one of the best goalie signings on a netminder-heavy first day of 2020 NHL Free Agency by snatching Corey Crawford. The Devils signed Crawford to a manageable two-year, $7.8 million contract.
That works out to a cap hit of $3.9M, which runs through 2021-22. (The Devils explained that Crawford’s salary goes from $3.6M in 2020-21 to $4.2M in 2021-22.)
“We are excited to bring Corey into our organization, as he is a proven winner and two-time Stanley Cup Champion,” Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald said. “We will look to him to assume a leadership role and be a strong presence for our young core. Crawford’s compete level and ability to battle will rub off on the entire group. This opportunity also provides him with a new challenge in his career.”
Devils sign Corey Crawford, could end up with strong goalie duo
If you believe that momentum can carry over from a strong finish to a season, then the combination of Crawford and Mackenzie Blackwood could torment opponents in 2020-21.
When you look at Crawford’s .917 save percentage from last season, you’re likely already impressed. Especially since he managed it behind a Blackhawks defense that rated among the shabbiest in the NHL.
But it gets more impressive once you zoom in. From January on, Crawford’s save percentage didn’t dip below .927.
Corey Crawford, signed 2x$3.9 by NJ, isn't done yet. He was fantastic this season behind the league's worst defence. He faced plenty of high danger chances and stopped them at an amazing rate. #NJDevils pic.twitter.com/ywPoQpA8pV
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) October 10, 2020
(Honestly, if the Blackhawks could’ve brought back Crawford for a hair under $4M per season, it’s disappointing that they let him walk. Unless, of course, they actually want to “tank.” Then maybe it was smart, if cynical.)
If you weren’t paying any attention to the lowly Devils, you might have missed how hot Blackwood got through the end of 2019-20.
After generating a mediocre .905 save percentage in 35 games before the All-Star break, Blackwood managed a stunning 8-2-2 record with a .937 save percentage over his last 12 appearances. (Crawford after the All-Star Break: .927 save percentage in 15 games played.)
Much like Crawford, Blackwood pulled off that run on a Devils team that struggled mightily.
So, 35-year-old Crawford can mentor 23-year-old Blackwood. With the way the NHL is shifting, especially considering a possibly condensed schedule, platoons make perfect sense.
Naturally, there’s some risk with Crawford, including his status as a 35+ contract. The Devils also still need to resolve Blackwood’s situation, as he’s currently an RFA.
But compared to having Cory Schneider sadly festering on their cap, the Devils can now turn the page. And the Devils might just end up with one of the better goalie combos in the NHL after signing Crawford.
(Of course, Schneider also shows us how rapidly a goalie’s game can fall apart, so who knows?)
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.