The Pittsburgh Penguins held on to Casey DeSmith. The goaltender was unclaimed on the waiver wire by the Tuesday noon deadline and at least head coach Mike Sullivan expressed a sigh of relief. The Penguins salary cap logjam has not been cleared and DeSmith is the first casualty. For now.
In DeSmith’s case, he was a victim of circumstance not of poor play. DeSmith was spectacular at times in the preseason. He allowed only four goals in a pair of preseason games when he played behind largely AHL lineups. DeSmith posted a .913 save percentage as he stopped 42 of 46 shots. He outplayed Jarry in the preseason but there were additional factors.
When asked what factors weighed in the decision and if finances were a factor, head coach Mike Sullivan didn’t mince words as he leaned into the microphone.
“Yes. I think it’s obvious the business of the game is part of the decision-making process,” Sullivan said. “It’s just the reality of the situation we’re in right now. So, we have three really, really good goalies.”
Read into it what you will, Sullivan was more effusive in his praise for DeSmith and didn’t say much about Jarry.
“We’re thrilled that Casey cleared. We think it’s great for us because we want him to be a Pittsburgh Penguin. He’s a real good goalie but without a doubt, these are the hard decisions that have to be made this time of year.”
Last season, Sullivan leaned heavily on DeSmith, who played 36 games. DeSmith started three straight games twice and was, in theory, given a chance to compete for the starting job when Murray returned from injury on Dec. 27. DeSmith was 15-11-5 with a .917 save percentage. For much of the season, he boasted better numbers than starter Matt Murray, just as he did in 2017-18, too. Murray eventually surpasses DeSmith but it was to the Penguins benefit having a pair of goalies playing well.
Jarry has a starting goalie pedigree but has not yet firmly established himself. Last season, Jarry made headlines when he scored a goal. Stickhandling is high on the list of Jarry’s strengths. Sullivan didn’t get into Jarry’s strengths or assets until prompted later in the presser.
“It helps when you have a goaltender who can play the puck efficiently. With the pressure in today’s game, forechecks, someone who can move the puck and help us move the puck is certainly an asset. That’s one of Tristan’s strengths.”
Also of note, the Penguins have yet not officially informed Jarry that he is the backup goalie. He found out when he saw DeSmith’s name on the waiver wire, and not before.
DeSmith will make his full $1.25 million salary in the AHL, assuming he is assigned there before the season begins. However, given the Pittsburgh Penguins lack of formal chat with Jarry, and Sullivan’s praise of DeSmith, this situation may not be over.
Also on the waiver wire, Monday were notable NHL players such as New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey, Vancouver Canucks winger Sven Baertschi and Washington Capitals defenseman Christian Djoos. Also, Daniel Sprong, Josh Ho-Sang and DeSmith. Everyone went unclaimed except Eric Comrie of the Winnipeg Jets who was snagged by Arizona, and Winnipeg claimed Chicago defenseman, Carl Dahlstrom.