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Penguins Trade Rumor Analysis: Matt Murray & Jimmy Howard

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DETROIT, MI - MARCH 27: Luke Glendening #41 of the Detroit Red Wings stuffs this shot between the pads of Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 3-1 lead in the second period during the Detroit Red Wings game versus the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 27, 2018, at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire)

The TSN crew including hockey reporter Frank Seravalli dropped a small bombshell late yesterday when they reported the Penguins are believed to be interested in 35-year-old Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard. Penguins trade rumors are about to explode after the credible report.

Howard will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, so trade rumors will swirl around Howard and the rebuilding Red Wings. However, other teams are believed to be interested including the St. Louis Blues, whose aggressive offseason is suddenly in jeopardy as goalie Jake Allen has plummeted to a sub-.900 save percentage.

Sound familiar?

TSN speculated the price for Howard would be a first-round pick.

No. SImply no. The Pittsburgh Penguins cannot afford to relegate themselves to spectators on the first day of the NHL Draft any longer. And, a first-rounder for a UFA- to-be seems steep. The going rate for a veteran goalie used to be a second-round choice, but over the past three seasons, only a few goalies with starting potential have been dealt.

The LA Kings paid very little for UFA-to-be Ben Bishop at 2017 the trade deadline. The Arizona Coyotes did cough-up a first rounder and a solid defenseman prospect (Tony DeAngelo) in exchange for Antti Raanta and top-line center Derek Stepan. Mike Smith was dealt to Calgary in exchange for 1A-type goalie Chad Johnson, a prospect and a third-round choice.

So, is Howard worth a top choice? Nope. No-way. Certainly not to the Penguins. The Penguins can ill-afford to give up another first round pick. Their top prospects in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton are not top-six forward material (or not NHL material) and the Penguins do not have a single defensive prospect. The cupboard is nearly bare.

If St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong chooses to panic and pay that price, let them.

Another potential obstacle for a Penguins-Howard deal: Detroit does not have another capable NHL starter but their young team is beginning to gel and is competitive. Would seasoned veteran GM Ken Holland wreck a season and potentially his team’s development?

Current backup Jonathan Bernier has been an inconsistent netminder throughout his career. He currently has a sub-.900 save percentage, and so Detroit would need to acquire a starting goaltender if they deal Howard.

Penguins Trade Rumor Analysis

Howard is a greater re-sign candidate than trade-bait unless Detroit gets their big asking price. In fact, Detroit will need a big return for Howard because a deal would put them in the goalie market, too.

But the fit for the Penguins is too perfect to ignore. Howard could backup Murray if the Penguins big-man gets his game back, or Howard could easily carry the load in the playoffs if Murray does not.

According to CapFriendly.com, the Penguins currently have about $4 million in cap space, but that goes away when defenseman Justin Schultz returns. Overall, the Penguins would need to clear about five million dollars to acquire Howard, as well. Bryan Rust and more, or Olli Maatta for a rental goalie?

Matt Murray has struggled and the worst case scenario has unfolded. Not only has Murray struggled, but he has also been injury prone; the worst of both worlds. Murray’s struggles must be surprising to the Penguins who can be forgiven for assuming at worst Murray would be an average starting goalie. Instead, Murray has plummeted to the bottom of the ranks with the likes of Brian Elliott, Mike Smith, and the recently waived Scott Darling.

The Penguins have no reason to give up on Murray as the struggles have not gone on long enough consider them permanent, but for a team probably on its last chance for a Stanley Cup, this year is of the utmost importance.

Casey DeSmith is a nice story. The 27-year-old is posting good numbers and stopping pucks. But the risk of being exposed is growing. Three of his last five starts have been OK but nothing more.

The Penguins likely don’t want to roll into April with DeSmith as their primary backstop.

Tristan Jarry, 23, badly wants to be in the NHL but games like Wednesday in Colorado are holding him back. He was leaky. Though his game last Friday in Boston was spectacular.

Consider Jarry a question mark who appears not-quite-ready for prime-time. The silver lining to the Murray injury is Jarry will get more NHL work and get more opportunities to take that step forward. He is a rare breed who has performed better at the NHL level than in the AHL. Somewhat like former Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s development, Jarry has to settle his game and assert himself mentally before he can be the Penguins go-too guy.

So, if the Penguins can get Howard without dishing the first pick, absolutely. And twice on Sunday. He would give the Penguins exactly what they need but the Penguins aren’t in a position to meet Detroit’s reported ask…unless the Penguins feel desperate or Detroit accepts less.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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