Heading into the off-season, the Pittsburgh Penguins seemed destined to bring in a new goaltender. GM Ron Hextall more than hinted at his desire to add an established veteran to the mix alongside young Tristan Jarry, whose play suffered this past season. Yet, the status quo remains in the Pittsburgh net with Jarry and injury-prone backup Casey DeSmith.
The root of this unexpected lack of change at the goalie position lies in the salary cap. Even with the departures of Jared McCann and Brandon Tanev, the Penguins are still right up against the upper limit. To this point, high-priced trade chips Jason Zucker, Marcus Pettersson, and Mike Matheson have yet to move, which leaves the team with little wiggle room in the free agent market. With what small space they had, the team opted to replace Tanev and McCann with Brock McGinn and Danton Heinen rather than address the goaltender position.
If and when the team is able to clear some space, perhaps adding a goalie will return to the forefront of their off-season objectives. The free agent market has largely been left bare, but the team could target a trade option such as Dallas’ Ben Bishop or Anton Khudobin, while Joonas Korpisalo, Alexandar Georgiev, and Malcolm Subban are other options believed to be available.
However, the team appears to no longer feel that they absolutely must add a goaltender before next season. Speaking with NHL.com’s Wes Crosby, Hextall stated that he believes Jarry is “going to bounce back” to starter quality for the Penguins this season. The 26-year-old did post a .921 save percentage and 2.43 GAA just a year ago, but those numbers fell to .909 and 2.75 this season. Most jarring was Jarry’s poor performance in the playoffs, in which he looked totally outmatched. Yet, Hextall – a former goalie himself – is confident that Jarry can return to form even without competition from a veteran addition. It seems he trusts DeSmith, who should be recovered from off-season surgery in time for the new campaign, as the backup again as well. This newfound confidence could be a product of the lacking talent available elsewhere or perhaps even some optimism for highly-regarded college free agent addition Filip Lindberg. Whatever the reason, the front office has changed their tune and Penguins fans have to hope that it all works out for the team as their championship window begins to close.