The Pittsburgh Penguins and Russian winger Danis Zaripov have not talked this week.
It appears the new drama surrounding the Penguins backup goalie position, which follows the weeks-long drama which engulfed the third line center role, has derailed the potential acquisition.
One source with direct knowledge of the process, only offered a short answer, “No talks.”
The two sides expected to engage in discussions after the Penguins finally solved their third line center issue, which occurred last Friday with the Riley Sheahan acquisition. Unfortunately, the Penguins found themselves with another problem after Antti Niemi‘s porous performance Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Penguins subsequently waived Niemi and are presumably looking for a backup goalie.
Zaripov, 36, scored 45 points (19 goals, 29 assists) in 54 KHL games last season. He put up 22 points in 18 playoff games. Four times Zaripov has led his team to a KHL championship.
He is also known to be close to Evgeni Malkin. The two played together in international competition, but Zaripov is currently serving a two-year doping ban from international competition. He was cleared by the NHL for play this season.
Casey DeSmith, 26, is currently the Penguins backup goalie. DeSmith has not yet played in an NHL game. In the preseason, he played just one period–he stopped five of seven shots against the Buffalo Sabres on September 20.
In the AHL, DeSmith has put up excellent numbers, including a .929 save percentage in 29 games last season. DeSmith is a small goalie, at just six feet tall and is unlikely the Penguins backup goalie over the long term.
Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford has, in the past, indicated the Penguins would prefer to let prized goalie prospect Tristan Jarry continue to develop in the AHL. Jarry is off to a rocky start this season, with a 3.96 goals against average and .883 save percentage in his first three games.
Penguins starting goaltender Matt Murray has suffered four injuries in his short NHL career, including a torn hamstring before Game 1, Round 1 last year. The Penguins have relied on a backup goalie to begin the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. In fact, the Penguins used three goalies (Jeff Zatkoff, Murray, and Marc-Andre Fleury) in the 2016 playoffs.
A Penguins trade for a backup goalie could create an opportunity for Zaripov and the Penguins to rekindle their talks. Though historical precedent shows backup goalies usually command a draft pick on the trade market.
Jim Rutherford waited patiently while Detroit solved its internal issues with Andreas Athanasiou, in order to acquire Riley Sheahan. Rutherford could eventually sign Zaripov, but it seems the Penguins have tabled that idea for the moment.