New Jersey Devils: Aaron Dell is a swell addition in net

(Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images) /

When the Edmonton Oilers placed free agency addition, Aaron Dell, on waivers three months after signing the ex-San Jose Shark to a one-year, $800,000 deal, it sent minor shockwaves through the NHL.

Now sure, Dell isn’t a lockdown future Hall of Famer like, say Corey Crawford (more on him later), but after going undrafted out of North Dakota State in 2012, the now-31-year-old Alberta native has 264 professional hockey games under his belt split between the CHL, the ECHL, the AHL, and the NHL – a feat near impossible roughly a decade ago.

Over the last four seasons, Dell was a vital reserve for the Anaheim Ducks, playing behind long-time stopper Martin Jones. Though Dell’s save percentage dipped pretty considerably from his rookie season-high of 93.1 by the time he finished out on his (first?) tenure in Anaheim, he’s still been able to stop 2641 of the 2907 shots taken on his goal for a career average of 90.8 – which is pretty good for a backup goaltender.

With a few teams, most notably the New Jersey Devils and the Edmonton Oilers, in need of varying degrees of help in net, it wasn’t so much if Dell would get claimed off waivers when he officially subjected to them, but who would be the team to land the former Sharks netminder?

New Jersey Devils, meet your new backup goaltender.

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When news broke that Corey Crawford was officially retiring from the NHL, it left the New Jersey Devils in a bit of a pickle.

Because free agency-palooza had long since passed, and even middling goaltending options like the team’s old pal Cory Schneider had found new homes on PTOs – in Schneider’s case, with the New York Islanders – the Devils were effectively left between a rock and a hard place.

Sure, by all accounts, Scott Wedgewood, the team’s presumed Taxi Squad goaltender, played very well during training camp. He’s an OG Devils draftee from back in 2010 who has played all over the NHL, AHL, and even ECHL for a single game back in 2015-16. But can the Devils really trust a player who hasn’t filled an NHL net since 2017-18 to win a half dozen games in reserve of MacKenzie Blackwood?

Fortunately, the addition of Dell alleviates some of that concern.

Once the 31-year-old arrives in Jersey, which may take some time due to issues at the USA-Canadian border and a potential need for a quarantine, Dell should be able to immediately slot in behind Blackwood, take over mid-game if things get really out of control – which seldom happens since Big Mac is just so darn good (deal with it) – and play a few games a month moving forward.

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Is it a perfect solution to the New Jersey Devils’ problems? No, a two-goalie platoon of Mackenzie Blackwood and Corey Crawford would have been, but obviously, we never got to see how that faired and never will. With his team playing surprisingly well over their first two contests of the season versus a Boston Bruins squad fresh off a 100 point season, Tom Fitzgerald deserves a ton of credit for identifying an upgrade on the open market and pulling the trigger to get the deal done – even if it was as simple as putting in a waiver claim and having a worse record than the Edmonton Oilers last season.