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Penguins Thoughts: Jarry’s Future Getting Complicated, Other Problems Not Easy



Pittsburgh Penguins, Jeff Carter, Tristan Jarry

Sitting above the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Colorado Avalanche spectacle, there were plenty of thoughts racing through my head. For about two hours, those thoughts were mostly, “Management cannot allow this to continue.”

For most of the game against the Avalanche, the Penguins were bad.

That should not be forgotten. The Penguins could not hang with a good team (again) until they pushed in the third period. I wonder what would have happened if they pushed like that in the second period — would they have lost after their momentum expired?

It seems unlikely they would have achieved the same result if they had to recapture momentum or battle Colorado evenly for another period. Like a racecar driver who precisely times a last-lap pass, the Penguins didn’t have to hold the lead or fight back after tying the game.

They needed only a singular surge thanks to Casey DeSmith, who was singled out for inconsistent play by his coach and GM leading into and after the all-star break.

DeSmith dodged the personal question after the win, but that had to feel really, REALLY good.

But why can’t the Penguins play their better game until it’s almost too late?

Tristan Jarry

While we’re on the topic of Pittsburgh Penguins goaltending, the future of Tristan Jarry is getting more complicated by the second. He will be a UFA after the season, and if you haven’t looked, the goalie market is a barren wasteland of guys at the end of their careers, guys who never got to the beginning, and, at best, 1B goalies.

Jarry will be, by far, the most talented goalie available. Semyon Varlamov, who will be 35, is second.

Jarry is also dangerously close to a new label: injury prone. He figures to resume play on the Penguins west coast trip over the next week, but that isn’t yet confirmed.

So, what are the Penguins and GM Ron Hextall to do?

If I were Jarry’s agent, I would refuse to sign any contract until after the start of free agency on July 1. The goalie could receive a couple of monster offers.

Emerging teams like the Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings are a goalie away from being on the cusp of a playoff berth (Both are within single digits of the Penguins, and both have suffered subpar goaltending this season. A few more wins for either has them in the thick of the race).

Journeyman Pheonix Copley is leading the LA Kings goalie tandem. They’re a playoff team without a bonafide No. 1. They must wonder, “what if…?”

Carolina will be in need because both ends of their tandem will be UFAs.

So, too, do the Buffalo Sabres need a goalie. Ukko-Pekka Luokkennen has a .900 save percentage. Put Jarry on that team right now, and they’re in the playoffs.

Yeah, the bidding could be fierce for Tristan Jarry.

The window for the Penguins to sign him to a contract before testing the free-agent market has probably come and gone.

Should Hextall consider trading Jarry for a starter under contract? I think so.

Yes, Penguins fans and Pittsburghers the world over, I’d put John Gibson in that mix as a possible target worth a phone call to see if Anaheim would consider some form of a goalie trade. However, Anaheim would not unless Hextall really sweetened the deal AND they were confident they could sign him.

The possible Penguins goalie trade that I would circle in this slightly far-fetched scenario is Thatcher Demko, who is signed for a few more years at an affordable $5 million. Demko isn’t as good as Jarry, but he’s close. Jarry is from Surrey (a Vancouver suburb), so the Canucks could conceivably re-sign him easier than other teams, and the Penguins would gain a bargain in goal.

Again, it’s far-fetched, but if the Penguins don’t want to pay Jarry $7 million over six or seven years, they’d better start planning.

I don’t think they can afford $6-7 million without finding a way to part with their third-line contracts or letting everyone else walk (including Jason Zucker) and replacing them with bargain-bin players.

Despite his recent spate of injuries, the desolate goalie market and the eventual salary cap hike mean Jarry holds the aces at this poker table.

Penguins Soft Spots:

Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel was beaten soundly more than once on Tuesday.

The Penguins’ third line was mired in their own end for two periods, though Kasperi Kapanen and Brock McGinn seemed to be begging for a puck that never came.

Kasperi Kapanen had a couple of moments where he flashed that top-six ability. Brock McGinn was outstanding on the PK and had a couple of takeaways/puck wins that got the puck into the offensive zone.

And no, there’s no one kicking at the door with the WBS Penguins who would make a difference with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Penguins’ second line was the only one with a fighting chance through the first two periods, partly because of the work Sidney Crosby and co. did against Nathan MacKinnon, who still managed a few glorious chances in the first period.

But that third line, until the third period, yikes. Not sure what to tell you about Jeff Carter.

About the best that coach Mike Sullivan could say on Monday was that he’s their best faceoff man.

The fourth line wasn’t bad. It seemed like Ryan Poehling was driving the line. He wisely skated the puck out of trouble several times and took it low. He didn’t hesitate with the puck, and there was much to like about his game.

I don’t think he’s the 3C answer, but we’re getting to the point where circumstances force Sullivan to give it a shot unless/until Hextall pulls the trigger on a Penguins trade that changes the situation.

Side note: MacKinnon isn’t quite Connor McDavid, but his acceleration by simply taking a half-stride or turning an edge is extraordinary. It’s the type of separation that Sidney Crosby used to create on a daily basis, though I don’t think Crosby ever got the overflowing credit that the next wave of guys gets.

I’ve always felt a little bad that the burgeoning blogosphere of 10 and 15 years ago forced negative labels on Crosby instead of him getting the accolades that MacKinnon and McDavid get and that Connor Bedard is going to get. Bloggers (and fan blogs) were the predominant hockey coverage during Crosby’s early years. He deserves to be top-five all-time, but in the media age, I think his reserved public demeanor and the internet hammering will eventually cost him a few spots.