New Jersey Devils acquire goalie Vitek Vanecek in trade with Washington Capitals

The New Jersey Devils traded two 2022 NHL draft picks for Washington Capitals goalie Vitek Vanecek on Friday morning.

The Devils are sending their second-round draft pick (37th overall) and their third-rounder (70th overall) to the Capitals for the 26-year-old restricted free agent and the Capitals’ second-round selection (46th overall, originally from Winnipeg).

Vanecek completed his second NHL season, going 20-12-6 with a .908 save percentage and a 2.67 goals-against average in 42 games. He was a rookie for the Capitals in 2020-21 before being selected in the expansion draft by Seattle, which traded him back to Washington for a second-round pick a week later.

The Devils entered the offseason with improved goaltending as a priority. They had a team save percentage of .881 last season, the second-worst in the NHL. Because of COVID-19 and injury absences, as well as ineffectiveness, the Devils used seven goaltenders last season.

They had scouted St. Louis Blues goalie Ville Husso heavily by the end of the season. But the Blues shipped the pending free agent to the Detroit Red Wings on Friday morning before Day 2 of the NHL draft, and Husso signed a three-year deal with Detroit. Less than an hour later, the Devils announced they had acquired Vanecek.

The Devils’ plan is to pair Vanecek with 25-year-old goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, who has struggled to regain the form he showed in his 2019-20 breakout season, when he posted a .915 save percentage.

The Capitals have restricted free agent Ilya Samsonov but are expected to chase a veteran goaltender in the offseason.

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