It is not a guarantee, but it seems to be a safe bet that Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford must choose one starting goalie and trade the rights to Matt Murray or Tristan Jarry. It also seems that Murray is the man who will have a new address next season, and Jarry is the goalie who will get a new Penguins contract.
But what is Matt Murray worth on the NHL trade market?
Since 2013, eight starting goalies have been traded, but that list includes multiple Ben Bishop trades and the Roberto Luongo to Florida deal, which also included Jacob Markstrom. The market this offseason will be markedly different than previous years, as the NHL salary cap is unexpectedly flat. And, the cap will be flat for a couple of years or more until the NHLPA can make up the revenue deficit caused by the pandemic pause.
It’s essential to keep a few factors in mind, too. Market value is based not only on performance but also on supply and demand. There will be a few more goalies on the free-agent list and NHL trade market. Washington Capitals stalwart Braden Holtby will be a UFA. In Vegas, Robin Lehner will be a free agent, or Marc-Andre Fleury will be available for trade. Vancouver Canucks puckstopper Jacob Markstrom will be a UFA, and so too will Corey Crawford.
The New York Rangers also have three goalies, including Henrik Lundqvist, who are starter quality. The market suddenly looks flooded, which is not good news for Penguins GM Jim Rutherford.
*This story was initially published on Aug. 17, 2020.
Murray’s Performance and Value
Murray’s last two regular-seasons and stats impede a lucrative contract. This season he finished with an .899 save percentage, which is below the goalie “Mendoza” line of .900.
Murray’s great selling point is the ability to win big games. In that vein, his performance in the Qualifying Round series against Montreal was average. His rebound control was mediocre, though his puck stopping was very good.
Murray’s value has fallen since the start of the season. His second-half resurgence was not strong enough to erase the abysmal first-half, and his postseason performance resulted in Tristan Jarry finishing the series in Game 4.
First, the market:
The seven goalie trades since 2013:
- At the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline, Chicago sent 1A goalie Robin Lehner to Vegas for Malcolm Subban, defensive prospect Slava Demin, and a second-round pick.
- Colorado took on Brooks Orpik’s contract to get Washington Capitals backup Philip Grubauer in the summer of 2018. Colorado gave up a second-round pick, too.
- San Jose acquired Martin Jones from Boston for a prospect and first-round pick in 2015. (That was a tricky trade as Jones’s original team, the LA Kings, refused to trade Jones to San Jose. Instead, LA traded Jones to the Boston Bruins, who flipped him to San Jose four days later, for a tidy a profit).
- In 2015, Arizona traded aging Mike Smith to Calgary for depth pieces and a third-round pick.
- Young Jacob Markstrom was part of the blockbuster Roberto Luongo trade with Vancouver in 2014. Multiple pieces and Luongo’s monstrous contract traded hands. Markstrom is the Vancouver starting goalie but has not slammed the door behind him.
- Ben Bishop has been traded four times as teams hoped the big goalie would fulfill his promise. Bishop didn’t catch his stride until 2013, with his third team, the Tampa Bay Lightning. First, Ottawa received a grinder and a fourth-rounder. Bishop eventually lost his starting job in Tampa Bay, and there wasn’t a great trade market. LA acquired Bishop fro LA as a rental for a fourth-rounder.
- In 2012, Washington traded Seymon Varlamov for one first and one second-round pick. Varlamov had just 59 NHL games experience but was a recent first-round pick with a world of promise.
For comparison, in reputation and performance, Murray projects closest to Philip Grubauer. Colorado gave Washington a second-round pick and took on Brooks Orpik’s contract for Grubauer.
In the light of the new market, Murray probably won’t command the same price Vegas paid for Lehner (depth, a second-round pick, and a prospect). In ordinary times, Murray probably would have equal trade value to Lehner.
In the flooded market, Grubauer’s value is the closer comparison: a second-round pick and a prospect…or favor.
Penguins trade Favor?
To get Grubauer, Colorado accepted defenseman Brooks Orpik and his $5 million salary, then promptly bought him out. Orpik only had one season left, so the buyout wasn’t oppressive, but it was significant value to Washington. That salary dump was probably worth well more than a prospect.
(Washington then re-signed Oprik to a cheap $1 million contract, which brought howls against Washington salary-cap gaming).
What favor could a team provide to facilitate a Penguins trade? How about including defenseman Jack Johnson or center Nick Bjugstad in the deal?
Johnson has three years left at $3.25 million per season. Bjugstad has one year at $4.1 million remaining. There is some talk around the Penguins organization such a combo of Murray is on the radar. However, we caution that talk would be going to Rutherford, and did not come from Rutherford.
It does make great sense.
One team to watch would be Minnesota and former Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin. Guerin already made his first deal with the Penguins, just as former Penguins assistant GM Jason Botterill did in Buffalo. However, in Guerin’s year-end press conference, he was blunt that Minnesota needed better goaltending.
Could Murray with Minnesota native Bjugstad be the tonic?
Minnesota also has a pair of contracts which they would like to move. 36-year-old winger Zach Parise and 35-year-old defenseman Ryan Suter each have five years remaining on their contract at $7.25 million annually.
The possibility that the Penguins accept an onerous contract to increase their haul, while unlikely, isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
But, there’s your answer to one of the most asked questions of the Penguins offseason. What is Murray worth? A second-round pick. And?