The Pittsburgh Penguins chose Tristan Jarry over Casey DeSmith Monday as the deadline to become salary cap compliant entered it’s final hours. Jarry and DeSMith were in a training camp battle for the backup position which DeSmith held last season.
The Penguins will save $375,000 by keeping Jarry, who makes only $675,000, because the maximum a team can save by sending an NHL contract through waivers is $1.05 million. If DeSmith is claimed, the Penguins would be free of the $1.25 million and lower their cap hit by $575,000. If DeSmith is not claimed, the Penguins will be on the hook for DeSmith’s full $1.25 million salary, regardless if he plays in the AHL or NHL.
DeSmith signed a three-year NHL contract last season.
DeSmith, 28, played 36 games last season with a healthy .917 save percentage. DeSmith’s steady play allowed Penguins coaches to create a goalie competition in order spur starter Matt Murray. DeSmith started three straight games in front of Murray twice last season.
Three veteran goalies were waived Monday. In addition to DeSmith, Eric Comrie and Anton Forsberg hit the wire.
Jarry, 24, has played 29 career NHL games and posted a .906 save percentage, but played in only two NHL games last season. The move will inch the Penguins just beneath the salary cap limit, by about $44,000. The space will also give the Penguins more time to complete a trade to free additional salary.
Jarry was the Penguins goalie of the future. The former second-round pick was passed quickly by Matt Murray then DeSmith en route to the NHL. When Murray battled injuries in 2017-18, Jarry played 26 games with a 14-6-2 record.
The 6-foot-2, 194-pound goalie is a combination of athleticism and size. Jarry has not yet been exposed at the NHL level by sharpshooters, so his weaknesses are not yet common knowledge. He moves very well and has an active stick.
Jarry is also known to be one of the guys in the locker room and not the stereotypical isolated goalie.
The Penguins swallowed hard and made a hard choice. DeSmith is the sure thing but does not have the same pedigree. Jarry could be a starting NHL goalie. In the AHL last season, Jarry played 47 games behind a depleted roster. He was 23-23-4 with a solid .915 save percentage.
One factor to consider, Rutherford may have put DeSmith through waivers to facilitate a trade. If a team were more interested in Jarry, keeping him on the NHL roster would prevent a lurking team from claiming him for free.
Regardless of the motivation, this is Jarry’s moment. He will play NHL games and he will have to be good. The Penguins cannot afford to drop points behind subpar goaltending, nor are they in a position to be patient. Murray has struggled to stay healthy and has not yet played 50 games in one season. The Penguins backup goaltenders have played an important role for the past four seasons, including Marc-Andre Fleury, DeSmith and Jarry.
As a Pittsburgh Penguin, it may be now or never for Tristan Jarry.