New Jersey Devils: MacKenzie Blackwood just signed the NHL’s best contract

Big Mac is back with the New Jersey Devils.

On Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020 – aka Christmas Eve Eve for those so inclined – the New Jersey Devils signed RFA goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood to a three-year contract extension worth $8.4 million – making the somehow-only-24-year-old the 38th-highest paid goalie in the NHL.

If you somehow believe Big Mac is the 38th best goalie in the NHL, then you and I, my friend, aren’t watching the same sport.

Measuring in at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Blackwood is a towering presence in net with a cool demeanor and the level constitution of a grizzled vet ten years his senior. A master of the butterfly-style, Blackwood has active feet, immaculate vision, and an uncanny ability to get his gloves on a pick far more often than a player his size should.

Need proof? Check out his top-10 saves of the season compiled by the NHL here; the fourth save specifically has to have been worth what, $1 million of his new deal alone.

But wait, there’s more. Not only is Mac more than willing to throw his body around with a complete disregard for his own physical well being, but he finished out the 2019-20 season with the 13th most wins of any goalie in the NHL despite playing behind a less than ideal defensive rotation that was addressed over the offseason. If players like Ryan Murray and Dmitry Kulikov can bolster a unit that also features P.K. Subban, Will Butcher, and Damon Severson, Blackwood’s 91.5 save percentage should rise up into the 92.7 range, which he averaged over his final 27 contests of the season.

Sure, would you like to see Blackwood win a few more of his league-high eight ties plus overtime losses? Most definitely, but that will come. Blackwood has only appeared in 70 games through his first two NHL seasons – he still has time to come into his own.

Now paired up with one of the league’s premier veteran goaltenders for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 NHL seasons – assuming he isn’t snatched away by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 expansion draft – Blackwood will not only be afforded an opportunity to learn from one of the best in the game but do so while continuing to play very meaningful minutes as a 50/50 starter.

That, too, plays a part in why Blackwood’s contract extension specifically is such a clutch move by the Devils. In 2020-21, Blackwood is set to make $1.475 million or roughly twice as much as he made in 2019-20. That mark is roughly a third of what Crawford is set to make for the forthcoming season and give the Devils the 21st-highest-paid goaltending tandem in the NHL. In 2021-22, Blackwood’s cap hit rises to $2.8 million, which, again, is the 38th biggest mark in the league and is an absolute bargain for a consensus number one netminder. If Corey Crawford remains with the team, the Devils would then have the seventh-highest paid goaltending tandem, or something a bit lower, in the 16-22 range, if the team opted to pair up Blackwood with a cheaper 1b.

Even in 2022-23, the final year of Mac’s steal of a deal, he’ll only be paid like the 18th highest paid goaltender in the NHL – a number that will surely go down as other rookie-scale players like Carter Hart earn their second contracts.

All in all, I can’t see a single downside in the Devils’ decision to extend Blackwood to this very specific extension, but don’t just take my word for it, let’s see what general manager Tom Fitzgerald has to say on the subject as per the team’s official press release,

“Mackenzie is going to be one of the key young, core pieces for this organization for a long time and we are excited and extremely happy to have him under contract,” said Fitzgerald. “He’s obviously shown that he can be a number one goalie, and the sky’s the limit for him.”

If you’ve been following the Devils at all this offseason, Fitzgerald’s words shouldn’t be all that surprising, as the Thunder Bay, Ontario native has been heavily featured across the team’s social media accounts, fan discussions, and merchandise offerings, but still, it’s always nice to hear a higher up speak glowingly about a goaltender they drafted before all others because they believed he was the long-term answer in net for the next decade-plus.

Oh hey, speaking of the New Jersey Devils’ notoriously fantastic social media accounts, what did they have to say on the subject?

My goodness, that’s some legit 3005 level stuff.

Is it a tad brash to call MacKenzie Blackwood’s new contract the best in the NHL? Eh, maybe so, but when you look at the contract from a year to year basis, even at its most rich, Blackwood is being paid like a bottom-15 starter when he clearly has the potential to be firmly in the top-10. With some additional seasoning under two-time Stanley Cup champion Corey Crawford, Big Mac may eventually become as ubiquitous with the New Jersey Devils as Martin Brodeur and vintage Cory Schneider. To paraphrase everyone’s favorite mid-90s jazzcat burger hawker, ‘The Devils, extended MacKenzie, It’s Mac Tonight!’. Boy, talk about an off-the-wall reference.