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Help Wanted: Penguins Have to Find No. 2 Goalie

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Casey DeSmith

The Pittsburgh Penguins have a lot of personnel issues to address over the next few months.

Securing a No. 2 goaltender is one of them, even if it’s not among the most pressing matters facing GM Ron Hextall and his staff.

Not when the Penguins are hoping to retain the likes of Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Rickard Rakell, among others.

Casey DeSmith, the incumbent as Tristan Jarry’s backup, presumably is a candidate to remain in that role, but he’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Although DeSmith, who had been working on a three-year contract that carried a salary-cap hit of $1.25 million, struggled through the early part of 2021-22, he rebounded during the second half of the season.

He finished with an 11-6-5 record, 2.79 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

With Jarry sidelined by a foot injury. DeSmith became the Penguins’ go-to goalie for the final weeks of the regular season, and figured to fill that role during their opening-round playoff series against the New York Rangers.

But after stopping 48 of 51 shots during Game 1, DeSmith abruptly skated to the bench during the second overtime, then left the ice because of a core-muscle injury that had to be surgically repaired a few days later.

The Penguins did not announce a timeframe for his recovery, but even if he’s projected to be ready for the start of training camp, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be back on the payroll by fall.

Indeed, the lone certainty at this point is that the Penguins aren’t likely to invest much cap space in a backup, if only because they have so many other free agents who must be re-signed or replaced.

If the Pittsburgh Penguins are convinced that DeSmith’s health isn’t a long-term issue and that his contract requirements are reasonable, he would seem to be a serious contender for the No. 2 job because he has proven that he’s capable of performing at a high level and has accepted filling a subordinate role without complaint.

But if management decides to move on from him, here are some unrestricted-free-agents-to-be who might get a look to replace DeSmith (with their 2021-22 team and cap hit in parentheses). Suffice to say, most cut-rate goalies likely won’t be winning a Vezina Trophy anytime soon:

*** Louis Domingue (Penguins, $750,000) — He stepped in for DeSmith late in Game 1, and would have become a local legend if he’d gotten the Penguins past the Rangers. However, he faltered as the series progressed, and gave up a particularly egregious deciding goal in Game 6, reducing him from folk hero to footnote. He’s a good guy to have as the No. 3 in your organization, but making him a full-time backup might be a bit much.

*** Keith Kinkaid (Rangers, $825,000) — He only made it into one game with New York this season, rejecting 29 of 31 shots in a 3-2 victory at Arizona Dec. 15. Kinkaid, who will be 33 July 4, did, however, have several solid seasons with weak teams in New Jersey before joining the Rangers.

*** Maxime Lagace (Tampa Bay, $750,000) — Remember him? He spent most of 2020-21 with the Penguins’ farm team in Wilkes-Barre, but did get one game in the NHL. Lagace split two appearances with the Lightning this season, although his personal stats (6.11, .828) weren’t exactly glittering.

*** David Rittich (Nashville, $1.25 million) — Rittich didn’t do much to up his value during his lone appearance of the playoffs, giving up five goals on 13 shots. And while his regular-season record (6-3-4) was OK, his save percentage (.886) was lower than 88 other goalies who played in the NHL in 2021-22.

*** Malcolm Subban (Buffalo, $950,000) — He’s never lived up to the promise that prompted Boston to claim him in the first round of the 2012 draft at PPG Paints Arena and missed the final 47 games of the regular season because of an unspecified upper-body injury, but he’s big (6-2, 215 pounds) and athletic and at least has the potential to elevate his game in coming seasons.

*** Scott Wedgewood (Dallas, $825,000) — He was 13-15-1 while splitting the season between the Stars and Arizona, and has been plagued by inconsistency throughout his career. He can steal some games, and all but give others away, which is part of the reason he’s regarded as a journeyman.

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Vince Gori
Vince Gori
1 month ago

I’ll go on the record as supporting Casey. A lot of hate has been directed towards him for letting the Pens down, due to injury, during the playoffs the past two years. What about Jarry? He faltered in the playoffs two years in a row, then was inserted for Game 7. Jarry and DeSmith would be an acceptable regular season tandem, the problem is the playoffs. There are bigger issues than goaltending. Secondary scoring and special teams doomed them in the Playoffs. I also look at Maikin, who’s ability to take over a game has vanished as a cause for… Read more »

ric jefferies
ric jefferies
1 month ago
Reply to  Vince Gori

I agree re goal tending, pens have two good goalies, Malkin has been a ghost of himself, time to set him free . How about focusing on the complete game, meaning Letang and company actually playing defense. Rodriguez is a keeper,has the same instincts around the puck as Sid but of course not Sid. Lastly play a 2,3 dimensional game, pass the puck to gain the zone (old school) pass twice shoot once instead of dump and case.

Chase Cranson
Chase Cranson
1 month ago

They lost the last 2 playoffs because of goalies and weak defense and please make changes already

Ujn Hunter
1 month ago

Were these guys supposed to be “backups” as they all scream… 3rd string to me.

Rob
Rob
1 month ago

If the pens want a real goaltending tandem Fleury would be the best option, but that is far fetched. All the options here are interchangeable and none would be an upgrade unless they suddenly elevate their game. If they let Desmith go, i would aim for Subban, but only because he has a higher pedigree of being a high draftpick.

Mary L
Mary L
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob

And if they need an emergency anthem singer- he’ll do just fine.
He’s bigger than CDS and although Subban had an UBI, for a goalie I think that’s a bit more favorable to recover from than bilateral groin surgeries in consecutive years.

Rich Filardi
Rich Filardi
1 month ago

Old saying – fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on the penguins. If they go a 3rd year with Desmith as a back-up, it would be insanity and they get what they deserve. Nothing against his performance but reliability is a big deal even if its unlucky. Go vet somewhere.

Jeff Young
Jeff Young
1 month ago

I expect 71 and 58 to be addressed one way or another sooner than later. Those two will determine everything else. I’d prefer to keep the $ for the backup goalie about the same as what we gave Casey (even if it’s Casey again). Otherwise, you’re pulling $ from other positions. If the only options are those above, gimme the known quantity.

Paul
Paul
1 month ago

Goaltending cost this team in the playoffs two years in a row. It’s time for Hexy to swing for the fences. I would inquire about Hellebuyck, who wants no part of a rebuild. The Jets appear to be headed for one. If he’s unavailable, then Gibson should be next on the list. He hasn’t played with a relevant team in years, and a return to his hometown could be just what he needs to achieve elite status again.

Last edited 1 month ago by Paul

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