It appears as if Pittsburgh isn’t wasting any time with their offseason planning. They acquired winger Kasperi Kapanen from Toronto earlier today and it appears as if they’re making some progress on another trade front as well. GM Jim Rutherford told Josh Yohe of The Athletic (subscription required) that there has been interest in both Tristan Jarry and Matt Murray and that “there’s a very, very good chance that we’re going to have to move one of them”.
Rutherford clarified that discussions aren’t in the final stages by any stretch but that he has a good understanding of what type of return could be available.
Both netminders are slated to become restricted free agents this offseason and have salary arbitration eligibility. With more than $72MM committed in payroll for next season already to only 17 players, it’s difficult to see a scenario where they can keep both goalies in the fold without making a move to free up some salary. Considering that would essentially the opposite of what they did today, that doesn’t seem too likely to happen.
Murray is likely to be the higher-priced goaltender of the two considering he comes with a $3.75MM qualifying offer and is only a year away from UFA eligibility. However, the 26-year-old isn’t coming off the best of seasons as he had a 20-11-5 record with a .899 SV% and a 2.87 GAA in 38 regular season starts and while Murray opened up their Qualifying Round series against Montreal as the starter, he wasn’t between the pipes at its completion. That certainly won’t help his market value. On the other hand, he has a good overall track record in the playoffs with a pair of Stanley Cup titles and would represent an upgrade for some teams looking for goalie help.
As for Jarry, this was his first full season in the NHL after breaking camp as the backup. He didn’t stay in that role for too long though as he got off to a great start to his year, earning an All-Star Game nod in the process. Overall, he posted a 20-12-1 record to go along with a .921 SV and a 2.43 GAA in 33 games during the regular season. His qualifying offer will be much cheaper, checking in at just $735K although he stands to earn much more than that. On the other hand, his still limited NHL track record could limit the number of suitors that would be willing to part with a sizable return.
The trade market for goaltenders could be an interesting one over the coming months as the number of starting netminders available on the unrestricted free agent market is rather limited with Jacob Markstrom, Braden Holtby, Robin Lehner, and Corey Crawford being the only ones fitting the bill. Accordingly, trading for a younger (and potentially cheaper) option could be more palatable to teams that are looking to structure their rosters to fit a flat $81.5MM Upper Limit for next season.
From that standpoint, it would seem that Pittsburgh is in good shape to make a move with a pair of marketable goalies. Goaltenders haven’t yielded significant returns in recent years but with a number of teams likely looking for improvements, this appears to be a good time to try to move one which should have Rutherford well-positioned to get a notable return.