On Sunday, Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan announced that Louis Domingue was out week-to-week after being struck on the foot by a shot during Thursday’s morning skate. Domingue was seen at PPG Paints arena but he was riding a little scooter with his foot in a protective boot. He will obviously be out for a while, which leaves Casey DeSmith as the only current option for the Penguins roster unless GM Ron Hextall hits the NHL trade market.
And he probably should.
DeSmith hasn’t been so good this season. His stat line showed a .921 career save percentage in the past, but a swoon this season has lowered it to .912. This season, he’s stopped just .886 and has seven decisions in nine starts.
Tristan Jarry has played the third-most games of NHL goalies (33), and a break doesn’t seem to be on the horizon.
“We’ve given him a heavy workload to this point. And he’s had one of the more heavy workloads in the league, and he’s handled it extremely well to this point. He’s played really sound hockey for us. I thought he had a terrific game (Sunday),” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. “Is he a guy that can manage a heavy workload and is at his best with a heavy workload? To this point, he’s shown an ability to handle it. But moving forward, I just think it’s important that we manage that workload as well.”
Sullivan is usually in command of his answers, but he searched for a way out of that question. For print, we take out fragments and pauses that go a different direction. The unspoken part of discussing Jarry and the heavy workload is the Penguins lack of confidence in their backup goalie, DeSmith.
It appeared Domingue was about to surpass DeSmith until the freak injury last Thursday. Without Domingue, Sullivan is unlikely to turn to DeSmith again. Sullivan pulled DeSmith from both of his last two starts. Even though Sullivan absolved him from blame after last Friday–acknowledging DeSmith wasn’t ready for game action after being rushed from COVID protocol the day before–the Penguins and DeSmith also have work to do.
“Casey’s played a lot of really good hockey for us. We know that the type of goalie that he is and what he’s capable of, and we’re going to work extremely hard to help case capture his best game,” Sullivan said of DeSmith last Friday night. “I thought he was gaining traction before the break. And it’s been a little bit of a struggle since. We know he’s a good goaltender. We’ve got to help him get get get to his very best game.”
DeSmith’s game isn’t NHL ready right now. The best place to get reps and get back into a groove is probably with the WBS Penguins–but the Pittsburgh Penguins can’t afford to send their backup to WBS without a replacement. Since it could be weeks before Domingue is ready, and the Penguins now have a full February schedule, it’s perhaps time to shop for a backup.
Based on past trades, the going rate for a journeyman is about a fifth-round pick, though the salary cap crunch has discarded all past structures. The price for a bonafide, trustworthy backup is a bit higher–often a second through fourth-rounder, but the cap is also a factor.
So, too, does a team’s desperation to add backup affect the price. Not every GM has Jim Rutherford’s desire to be fair.
The parameters of our shopping trip are a salary under $1 million, some NHL experience beyond emergency work, and–to be blunt–disposable. Or, the goalie must be a sure thing to supplant DeSmith permanently. We also assume most teams with legitimate playoff aspirations want a solid third goalie to protect against COVID absences and injury, so that further limits the pool.
Here’s the full list of players who met our criteria on CapFriendly.com.
Using the National Hockey Now network of pros, we put out calls to see who is believed to be more available than others on the NHL trade market, or who could be available on the waiver wire soon.
And, no, no way, no how, no chance, no reason on Marc-Andre Fleury. Let it go.
NHL Trade Possibles
Jonas Johansson, FLA
The big goalie was snagged on waivers by the Florida Panthers during a time of need, but he hasn’t played and now he’s the third goalie on the NHL roster. he surely won’t leapfrop Spencer Knight or Sergei Bobrovsky, and the scuttle is Johansson could be obtained easily.
The 6-foot-5, 219-pound goalie is only 26-years-old and played in 30 NHL games over the past two seasons. He played nine for the Colorado Avalanche this season, but posted an anemic .880 save percentage. The numbers are little skewed because of a couple bad outings, but he also posted save percentages over .920 in three of his six starts.
WIth a good team in front of him, he could be the right candidate to give Jarry a rest. He makes $750,000 and will be an RFA, so the Penguins would also have some control to keep him around if they chose.
Craig Anderson, BUF
Anderson is 40-years-old and even he thought he was retired until the Washington Capitals called last season. And then Buffalo called this season. Injuries have limited him to just six games this season, but he returned to Buffalo Sabres practice on Sunday.
He knows how play, he knows how to win playoff games, and he doesn’t expect to be a starting goalie at this stage of his career. He was a Chris-Kunitz knucklepuck away from the 2017 Stanley Cup Final (which the Pittsburgh Penguins won).
In six games this season, and behind the patchwork Buffalo Sabres, Anderson has a .921 save percentage. He makes only $750,000. He may be the perfect choice, if Buffalo will let him go. Though he may also cost a solid draft pick on the NHL trade front, too.
Anton Forsberg, OTT
The Penguins chased Forsberg last Thursday, but the Ottawa backup/goalie-by-committee could, or should be available. He’s an NHL journeyman who is stopping .912 of the shots against him and makes $900,000. That’s a bit better than both Matt Murray and Filip Gustavsson (perhaps Ottawa should stop with former Penguins goalies).
Forsberg, 28, has seven years of NHL experience and generally keeps his save percentage above .900. The Penguins don’t need the second coming of Johan Hedberg. They need a reliable backup while DeSmith works out his issues and Domingue heals. Forsberg fits, if Ottawa wants to recoup an asset for him. Forsberg isn’t significantly better than DeSmith, but he’s not worse, either.
Garret Sparks, LA
The 28-year-old is a professional No. 3 goalie. He’s made 35 starts and 40 appearances over the past three-plus seasons with Toronto, Vegas and LA. The 6-foot-3 goalie isn’t small, but not big. He’s serviceable but not great. He’s LA’s third goalie behind Jonathan Quick and Cal Peterson. In two games this season, Sparks has a .936 save percentage.
He fits into the disposable category, but could be a short-term stopgap.
Dustin Tokarski, BUF. Part of the Sabres goalie-by-committee.
Charlie Lindgren, StL. Third goalie in St. Louis. NHL experience with St. Louis and Montreal.