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DeSmith Rebound Could Affect Penguins Trade Deadline Plans

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Casey DeSmith, NHL Trade
Pittsburgh Penguins center Jeff Carter, right, greets goaltender Casey DeSmith (1) after the Penguins beat the Seattle Kraken 6-1 in an NHL hockey game, Monday, Dec. 6, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Just as the pendulum swings one way, bringing worry and needs at the NHL trade deadline, as it swings the other it opens possibilities. As concern over backup goalie Casey DeSmith and a string of bad performances grew, so did the Pittsburgh Penguins need for a competent backup to spell No. 1 goalie Tristan Jarry.

Needs cost assets and soak up precious salary-cap space.

The Penguins not only need a backup goalie to shoulder some of the burdens in the coming jam-packed second half, but also as insurance against both a Jarry injury and playoff ineffectiveness. And, of course, COVID, too.

DeSmith, 29, turned in his second consecutive solid performance on Thursday night when the Penguins beat the Ottawa Senators 2-0 at the Canadian Tire Centre. He stopped all 26 shots, including a few breakaway chances.

“You can see it in his body language. He has a certain bounce in his step. And you know, I thought he had it (Thursday),” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “He made two or three real good saves throughout the course of the game that we needed, quite frankly, and that’s what goalies do to help their teams win.”

On Jan. 28 Casey DeSmith stopped 30 of 32 against the Detroit Red Wings in a 3-2 shootout loss. The L was more on DeSmith’s lifeless mates than it was him.

“I think we always had faith in him. I mean, most of the time we just needed to help him out. Tonight I think we were able to do that,” defenseman John Marino said. “We still gave up some chances, but at the end of the day, we were able to limit those compared to the previous games. I think that’s a big key.”

It may be a big key for the Pittsburgh Penguins defensemen to limit the chances against DeSmith, but it’s a bigger key if DeSmith can nullify a few mistakes by the boys up front. There will be a few more mistakes served to DeSmith as breakaways,  two-on-ones, and wide-open shooters.

If DeSmith can return to the form which allowed him to boast a .921 career save percentage before this season, doors will open for the Pittsburgh Penguins, both on the ice and on the NHL trade market.

NHL Trade Consequences

It’s simple math. If the Penguins need a backup goalie, say goodbye to a second or third-round pick, at the least; that is the rumored price tag on goalies like Columbus Blue Jackets netminder Joonas Korpisalo.

As Hextall looks to the future, squandering a second-round pick to fill a backup goalie need cannot be high on any GM’s wishlist. If replacing DeSmith didn’t cost a second-rounder, then it would have cost another asset. Despite hopes, other GMs, in fact, do not want to give up their best players for all your bad players.

If Louis Domingue were able to supplant Casey DeSmith, as looked to be a credible option last month before Domingue’s freak injury at the end of a morning skate, the Penguins would still take a nearly $250,000 cap hit to move DeSmith to the WBS Penguins.

Such amounts are not insignificant at the NHL trade deadline. Domingue was solid in training camp, when he stood on his head for the Penguins minor league roster to beat the Buffalo Sabres’ NHL-heavy roster in Buffalo. He was extraordinary in his only NHL start this season, a 40-save performance in a 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 15.

However, by DeSmith finding that “bounce in his step,” it frees up assets for Hextall to go shopping for other needs on the NHL trade block, such as a middle-six winger capable of consistent offensive production, or a net clearing defenseman or an upgrade at any position on the blue line.

DeSmith will have plenty of chances to restore the faith over the next month before the March 21 NHL trade deadline. His performance will necessitate Hextall use assets to shore up the position or allow Hextall to spend them elsewhere.

Pending Domingue’s health (it appears to be a broken or sprained foot/ankle), Domingue could become one of those assets Hextall uses to shore up other parts of the lineup. He has over 140 games of NHL experience.

Teams passed on Domingue, 29, who was on waivers at the end of training camp. He became an emergency recall when he made the start in January, so he won’t have to clear waivers to go back to the WBS Penguins. A few goalie-starved teams would have to pry him away from the Penguins–and they would be wise to call.

It depends on DeSmith’s performance. If he plays well, the Penguins have another asset and are able to focus on other areas. If not, Hextall must waste an asset to shore up that position first.

DeSmith’s last two performances are trending in the right direction.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Mike Donnelly
Mike Donnelly
3 months ago

We should also be giving major stick taps to Andy Chiodo for his work with all 3 goaltenders

Jeff Young
Jeff Young
3 months ago

First, in the playoffs, luck is always a thing. If any team’s starting goalie gets injured, that team is going to be in trouble. The question is, can you live with the drop off? And if you can, where else can you improve? Based on what I’ve read, the team needs a physical defenseman (probably should’ve tried for Montour, eh?)… So what do you give up then? I think we’ve seen what Kapanen is, so of you can include him in a deal to get a bit harder to play against, why not? I find it difficult to believe the… Read more »

Uros
Uros
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Young

It’s just 2 games, but boy do I hope I’d be proven wrong. I’m more for the d options than for a top 6 winger. But hey, maybe things are good as is, we just can’t see it yet.

Uros
Uros
3 months ago
Reply to  Uros

Sorry, Jeff Young, the comment above wasn’t a reply to yours, but was meant as standalone. I just clicked on the wrong thing.

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker
3 months ago

The penguins have no cap flexibility, so trade talk at this juncture is pointless unless its salary dump moves. DeSmith will be fine if they lose Jarry.

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[…] Hockey Now’s Dan Kingerski lays out what the  Pittsburgh Penguins‘ options for backing up goalie Tristan Jarry.  Also, Hockey Now’s Sam Carchidi writes […]

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[…] the reemergence of Casey DeSmith erased the need for the Pittsburgh Penguins to grab a backup goalie on the NHL trade […]

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