The seemingly inevitable Pittsburgh Penguins trade of Matt Murray is on the clock. The Penguins prime chance to deal Murray, or possibly Tristan Jarry, will be at the 2020 NHL Draft, which is scheduled for Oct. 9-10. The NHL GMs won’t gather in person for the coming draft, so the cell phones will be burning, leading to the Zoom-call draft.
What is Matt Murray’s worth, and what could the Calgary Flames have to offer?
Murray is a difficult player to assess real trade value. PHN has extensively written on the potential price tag based on recent history and the current market, but the league-wide financial circumstances of the next couple or few seasons are not normal. A flat salary cap could dog NHL trades and the Penguins trade value.
Murray’s contract status is also an impediment. He is an RFA with arbitration rights, which essentially means a third party could decide his contractual worth. That could be a turn off to interested GMs like going on a date with someone who chews with their mouth open.
An arbitration battle with Murray could be bruising to both sides. Murray will command starting goalie money, while the team will argue his numbers and recent performance do not merit top dollar.
The general consensus is $6 million. PHN believes the value will fall closer to $5 million, but that is still a chunk of change for a goalie with an .899 save percentage and who has not been at his best in either of the last two NHL postseasons.
For most teams, salary cap space, and in some cases, team finances will be tight. Murray may not command the high value the Penguins may have hoped six months ago.
There are more than a handful of teams who need to upgrade their goalie position or need a starting goalie next season. One of those teams, and thus potentials Penguins trade partner, is the Calgary Flames.
Penguins Trade Potential: Calgary Flames
Calgary has an issue in net and perhaps a great need. They had two starting goalies, but neither claimed the net. Cam Talbot, 33, will be an unrestricted free agent. His one-year, $2.75 million deal will expire, and he has not distinguished himself as a reliable starter since 2017. His save percentage since then has been under .900.
David Rittich, 28, is a big goalie who surprised everyone by getting to the NHL quickly after Calgary signed him from the Czech leagues (he split time between Extraliga and the lower Czech2 league). However, his save percentage in the NHL is only .907.
Calgary is in the midst of soul-searching after their Round One loss to Dallas. Expensive forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan are on the hot seat and are taking the lion’s share of the blame.
Significant changes could be coming to Calgary.
Calgary has a pick in the top three rounds in each of the next three drafts, and a pick in every round in the 2020 NHL Draft, so Calgary GM Brad Treveling isn’t hamstrung by a lack of picks.
1. Sam Bennett
Penguins fans (and PHN) have watched Sam Bennett from afar. He was a monster in the 2020 NHL playoffs with eight points (5g, 3a) in 10 games. Unfortunately, for those who foresee Bennett as a potential third-line center in Pittsburgh, he hasn’t cracked the 30-point plateau in four seasons. This season he scored only 12 points (8g, 4a) in 52 games.
His contract has an AAV of $2.55 million for one more season.
He makes an interesting discussion point because he showed heart and grit in the playoffs, and he can play with sandpaper in the regular season, but his production is not befitting a Penguins third-line center.
After acquiring Kasperi Kapanen and his $3.2 million salary-cap hit, the Penguins don’t have a lot of room to carry a player such as Bennett unless they feel he could notch 35 points.
2. Dillon Dube
Dube, 21, could also be on the radar. He’s another responsible, two-way forward who can play center or wing. He’s a bottom-six forward all day long, but he has scored at a point-per-game pace in the AHL. At 5-foot-11, 187-pounds, he’s not a big player, but he too could bring a little youth and energy to the stale Penguins.
3. Oliver Kylington
A dark horse to watch could be defenseman Oliver Kylington, who is 23-years-old but has not yet produced commensurate with some of his individual talents. He has been used as a depth defenseman in Calgary and played 48 games this season and 38 games last season.
Kylington is lightning fast and has good puck skills. He is somewhat comparable to P-O Joseph in speed, stature, and parts of their game, which they must solidify to earn full-time NHL minutes. A Kylington addition would allow Joseph more time to develop in the AHL, too.
Kylington is also a lefty and could immediately push for playing time on the third pairing in the Penguins top-six.
He must get better away from the puck, and he must consistently make better decisions. He can also be passive, too. Kylington would have been an ideal project for former Penguins assistant coach Sergei Gonchar.
4. Emilio Pettersen
The Norwegian born Peterssen is maturing quickly at the University of Denver. He’s become a high-scoring forward in the college ranks with a point-per-game in his sophomore season (36gp, 13g, 22a). He did spend two seasons in the USHL, but he’s only 20-years-old. He’s also on the small side, at 5-foot-10, 170-pounds.
Pettersen has deceptive speed and good agility. And, perhaps most importantly, scouts say he is fearless on the wall. He doesn’t rank at the top of the Calgary prospects pool, so he too would become a player to watch.
Perhaps Pettersen could be a nice snag with a draft pick…if Calgary is interested in Murray.