The Pittsburgh Penguins have locked up one of their goaltenders for the next few years, signing Casey DeSmith to a three-year extension. The contract will carry an average annual value of just $1.25MM, making DeSmith quite the bargain in Pittsburgh. Penguins GM Jim Rutherford explained why he signed DeSmith:
Since joining the Penguins’ organization, Casey has excelled for us at every level, first in Wheeling and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and now here in Pittsburgh. We’re pleased to have him signed with our organization for the next three-and-a-half seasons.
It’s important to note the mention of the Wheeling Nailers in Rutherford’s comments, because it didn’t always look like DeSmith was destined for the NHL. Undrafted out of the USHL, DeSmith first attended the University of New Hampshire where he dominated over three seasons, posting incredible save percentages and being named to the conference All-Rookie team as a freshman.
Unfortunately as UNH prepared for their 2014-15 season with DeSmith expected to start as a senior, he was arrested in a domestic violence incident and suspended by the team. DeSmith did not play a game during the 2014-15 season and didn’t have an NHL contract waiting for him anymore. Instead, he signed to play in the minor leagues with the Penguins and had to start his professional career in the ECHL with Wheeling. Obviously still a talented goaltender he found success there and eventually when he joined the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
DeSmith signed his first NHL contract in 2017, and is still on a two-way deal with the club. That contract is scheduled to expire at the end of this season, which would have put him on the free agent market. Obviously DeSmith wanted nothing to do with that, as he has now locked himself into the Penguins organization for the next three years at a price likely lower than he could have received on the open market. Through 26 games this season the 27-year old has a .924 save percentage and may have been seen as a potential starter for a goaltending-needy franchise. Instead, he’ll stay in Pittsburgh where he can be an excellent tandem option for Matt Murray as the team continues to pursue a Stanley Cup.