Just Stop the Damn Puck! The Pens Most Important Move this Offseason:
The Pittsburgh Penguins have a lot of issues to tackle this offseason from General Manager to Center, but at the heart of the Pens needs is a reliable starting goalie. The goalie is, without a doubt, the most important player on the ice in hockey. A good goalie can mean the difference in a tight game or series, and they have the power to singlehandedly win a match by holding the other team to a shutout. They’re on the ice for the whole game, while even the best skaters will only spend around 19 minutes playing. This disparity means the goalie has way more influence on a single hockey game than even the best skater. So what happens when you have a lousy goalie? As we saw in Pittsburgh, you have a pretty crappy team.
Our Current Situation:
Ok, Jarry isn’t necessarily a bad goalie, boasting a save percentage of .909 which is right around the league average, but this doesn’t factor in the number of games he missed. Jarry barely played half the season in 2022, leaving the rest up to Desmith, who is, in fact, bad, having a losing record in the net and a 3.17 goals per game average compared to Jarry’s 2.9. The Penguins can’t continue with someone as injury-prone as Jarry. He’s an average goalie when he plays, but it isn’t worth the time and money when he has to relinquish the helm to a guy like Casey Desmith for almost half of a season. So the best move here would be to sign a solid starting goalie and put Jarry on the bench if possible. If it’s too much money to retain Jarry and the starter, cut Jarry for all I care, Desmith’s not too much of a step-down; he’s just not good enough to split games with another tendy in the NHL.
So, Who can we Get?
John Gibson and Connor Hellebuyck are the two names that come to mind for the absolute dream case scenario. Gibson grew up in Pittsburgh and, I’m sure, would love to get out of Anaheim with the rebuilding Ducks and join his hometown team to chase a cup. This dream will most likely not come to fruition, as the Ducks seem eager to hold onto their only remaining franchise star. Although it would probably be wise to get some value out of Gibson before he escaped his prime, I don’t see Anaheim trading him away, as it seems like he’s one of the only things attracting fans to their stadium nowadays. Even more unfortunate is that Hellebuyck has expressed interest in staying with the Jets, and I don’t blame him, as right now, they have a way better chance at a cup than the Pens. So, what can we do?
The draft shouldn’t be considered a reliable option, as it’s hard to find a trustworthy young starter in the NHL when they have had virtually no time to gain experience. Time is one thing the Penguins cannot afford, as all of our stars are approaching old age and eventually retiring in the coming years. So, even if we did trade our pick away for a lower pick and a chance at a goalie, I don’t think it would be a wise move because this team cannot just sit around and wait as the young guy develops.
The final thing to consider would be free agents that we could sign. The big names in the free-agent market are Philipp Grubauer of the Avs, Mike Smith of the Oilers, and Tuukka Rask of Boston. While all these guys would force us to make significant cuts to keep up with the salary cap, I think they’re worth considering. They are reliable starters who boast a high save percentage and are in search of a cup. Tuukka Rask might be our best option, as he’s coming out of a disappointing playoff run in Boston and most likely is not interested in resigning with the Bruins. He is the most expensive of the three, but I think the pens could make it work. As for Smith and Grubauer, they’re getting old, but so are our best players. If the two could scrape together a few more good seasons, I think it would be worth considering hiring at least one, if not both, of them as a duo in net. It will take a lot of work, but free agency might be the way to go with this issue, and if I were pens management, I’d prioritize Rask, who boasts a .913 save percentage and has a reason to want out of Boston.
Something has to change in the net, and whether we go to free agency or the trade block, I’ll welcome any new face in the goal. Rask and Gibson are my favorite options, but I’d love to see any other mentioned tendy step up as the Pens starter. So long as we don’t have Jarry and Desmith sharing the net, I’m a happy fan.
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