There has not been a social media announcement, but former Pittsburgh Penguins backup goalie Casey DeSmith is expected to become a new father this week. With the impending good news, DeSmith is anxiously awaiting his hockey future as his current and perhaps temporary team, the Montreal Canadiens, are chumming the NHL trade waters trying to move DeSmith.
DeSmith, 32, was the Penguins’ backup goalie until the Aug. 6 trade, facilitated by Montreal, in which the Penguins acquired Erik Karlsson from the San Jose Sharks. As part of the three-team deal, Montreal took on Jeff Petry, Casey DeSmith, and a future Penguins second-round pick.
Montreal has already traded Petry to the Detroit Red Wings.
Last season, DeSmith played a career-high 38 games and posted a 15-16-4 record. His career save percentage is .912.
The Penguins’ net was crowded before the trade, with four NHL-experienced goalies. DeSmith landed in Montreal, again part of a busy situation with four netminders.
“I spoke with Casey when the trade went down. (He and Petry) probably didn’t expect to talk to me,” Canadiens GM Kent Hughes said Wednesday. “Casey was in a situation in Pittsburgh that was too busy, with four goalies. He arrives in Montreal in a situation that also has four goalies.”
DeSmith has struggled in the first half of the season for two consecutive seasons and had a strong rebound in the second half. Unlike many backup goalies last season, he kept his save percentage above .900, finishing at .907.
The Canadiens’ other NHL goalies, Jake Allen (.891) and Sam Montembeault (.901), struggled with that line. Third goalie Cayden Primeau also played three NHL games with a subpar .852 save rate.
Statistically, and perhaps with the eye test, DeSmith would figure to be one of the two best Canadiens goalies. However, the NHL salary cap world is far from perfect, and the rebuilding Canadiens are flush against the salary cap.
“I told Casey to be patient. The goal is not to bury you in the American Hockey League,” Hughes said. “We will continue to look at possible trades or to make some changes. But it’ll take patience with the goalie market, it’s always slow.”
DeSmith’s ceiling is a bit of an unknown. He’s not seized past chances to claim a starting role, but last season he performed solidly while starter Tristan Jarry battled injuries, especially in January and February.
Unfortunately for DeSmith, there is growing curiosity if the 26-year-old Montembeault, once an eagerly anticipated prospect with the Florida Panthers, is finally coming into his own and can thrive as a No. 1 goalie.
Allen, 33, is beginning a two-year deal with a $3.850 million AAV. Since Allen is nearly untradeable, that leaves DeSmith as the likely odd man out.
There are several teams with weak goaltending situations. There are significant questions about the Edmonton Oilers with Stuart Skinner as the starter. The LA Kings have seemingly tabbed fading Cam Talbot, and the Buffalo Sabres situation remains unsettled.
Petry, 35, landed at home after the Canadiens dealt him to the Red Wings for a fourth-round pick and a prospect. Montreal also picked up half of Petry’s remaining salary, meaning Detroit is getting Petry for about $2.3 million.
The defenseman grew up in the Detroit area, and his father, Dan, was a noted pitcher for the Detroit Tigers and late became the Tigers’ color analyst.
“I was always watching Red Wings games. My childhood room was Red Wings everything,” Petry said Wednesday. “Hockey was always something I enjoyed more than baseball. It took me a while to finally tell my dad that and get away from that. Hockey always meant a little bit more to me.”
Hughes also called Petry on the morning of the trade to discuss the plan: trading Petry as soon as possible.
“I called Jeff and explained the situation. They’re a family, they have four young boys, (and) they’re about to start school. I gave him my word. We saw an opportunity to facilitate a trade, but we’re mindful that you have a family and a career and that Montreal is not where (Jeff) expected to play,” Hughes explained. “I promised that we would not drag it out trying to move him without trying to maximize every little value in the deal.”
*Montreal Hockey Now beat reporter Marc Dumont and Detroit Hockey Now beat reporter Kevin Allen contributed to this story.