By this point in the summer, a few Pittsburgh Penguins have received the phone call from the front office they could or will be traded. Olli Maatta is gone to Chicago but the Penguins still need to shed a few million of salary cap space. Unless NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman just calls it square and allows the Penguins to spend whatever they want, another one or two players of significant salary will trade their Penguins hockey bag for a slick leather carryall with another logo.
And one player who doesn’t make a significant salary but figures to have a new address is goalie Tristan Jarry. Probably. And he knows it, too.
The Jarry conundrum facing Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford is not as simple as flipping the Penguins third goalie for an asset. No, a Jarry trade or no-trade has more angles than a Fast Eddie Felson bank shot off the rails (Paul Newman, Color of Money ).
The first angle is Jarry’s potential. Does he have the stuff to be an NHL starting goalie? Let’s assume the answer to that question is yes, or at least probably. The going rate for such goalies is typically a second-round draft pick. For a sure thing, sometimes teams can recoup more but Jarry doesn’t seem to have the Ben Bishop/young Robin Lehner pedigree. Both of those goalies drew a first-rounder in return.
So, if Jarry does have the stuff to be a starting goalie, the second angle is the Penguins future. Penguins netminder Matt Murray is due a contract by next summer. Prevailing sentiment around the Penguins is a deal is possible but there is legitimate fear that Murray will want big money which outpaces his performance.
Sergei Bobrovsky just signed for $10 million per season. Jarry would be a backup plan should Murray put a high tag on his services.
The third angle is Murray insurance. Murray has been fortunate that most of his 10 trips to the injured list have been relatively short, but should one of these injuries require serious recuperation, the Penguins are not sufficiently stocked in the net; they would be forced to ride Casey DeSmith and an AHL journeyman in the event of a Jarry trade followed by a Murray injury.
So, Jarry carries considerable value there, and those are three big reasons to try to keep Jarry around.
However, the Penguins also need to shed salary. Badly. Marcus Pettersson, Zach Aston-Reese and Teddy Blueger need to be signed and the Penguins can barely afford one of them, at the moment.
So, Jarry is an asset the Penguins can package to add value to difficult players to deal such as Jack Johnson.
NHL General Managers are a fraternity which regularly puts the screws to each other. Opposing teams know the Penguins predicament and they will not let them off the hook without making them squirm.
As one industry source told PHN when discussing the Penguins RFAs and potential offer sheets, “It wouldn’t be hard (to steal one), given the Penguins cap!”
And so even teams which are interested in Jack Johnson could hold out for more. That’s the way it goes and the fourth angle for the Penguins to balance is the salary cap situation with the three reasons to keep Jarry.
And the fifth rail which the Penguins need to use to calculate this bank shot is roster construction. Jarry is no longer waiver exempt. If the team tries to send him to the WBS Penguins, he’ll be free to claim. So, the Penguins would need to carry three goalies this season until they finally make a decision.
The fifth rail is the biggest deterrent to keeping Jarry.
A team probably wouldn’t ask for DeSmith as a deal sweetener. He’s a perfectly capable NHL backup in demeanor, performance, and salary. But such players aren’t the stuff of big trades.
The Penguins have every reason to want Tristan Jarry in the organization for another year, but precious little ability to make it happen. There is likely a day when Penguins fans will look back and claim to have been vehemently against a Jarry trade. The 6-foot-2, athletic netminder could well be an NHL starting goalie. His locker room demeanor wins friends and allies with ease.
But even if the Penguins figure a way out of this salary cap hell without including Jarry in a deal, a trade is still likely. Eventually.