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Penguins trade rumors: Interest in Jimmy Howard?

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Are the Pens looking to make changes in the net?

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Detroit Red Wings Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

TSN’s Frank Seravalli hints that the Pittsburgh Penguins may be looking into Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard.

The Blues are reportedly sniffing around Detroit’s Jimmy Howard, but they may not be alone. The Pittsburgh Penguins are very much in ‘win now’ mode, are believed to have interest, and, unlike the Blues, the Pens have a first-round pick to dangle.

A first round pick seems like a big offer to a 35-year old goalie, especially since earlier this month local reports had Howard and the Red Wings very sweet on one another, with beat writer Ansar Khan making an extension seem a mere formality:

The Red Wings are happy with Howard, and Howard is happy in Detroit. That is why the sides are sure to agree on a contract extension this season.

Howard is in the final year of his contract (a six-year deal with a cap hit of $5.29 million) and turns 35 in March, which has led to speculation he might be moved at the trade deadline for a draft pick. With Jonathan Quick out indefinitely following knee surgery last week, some wondered if a trade might come sooner and the Los Angeles Kings would be interested.

It doesn’t matter. The Red Wings are committed to keeping Howard. He likely will receive a multiyear contract, and the tandem of Howard and Jonathan Bernier will be manning the nets in Detroit for a couple more seasons.

This will be one to watch. I mean, we saw in 2006 the Pens traded Mark Recchi to Carolina at the deadline, Recchi helped the Hurricanes win a Stanley Cup and then signed back in Pittsburgh for the 2006-07 season. So it’s not an impossibility that Howard could be moved for an asset and possibly still be a Red Wing in the future.

However this is also a guy with a family and probably wants to stay on the same team for his whole career. Would he be interested and mentally focused on being a goalie for a different team? If not, might not make sense to trade for him in the first place. With it of course seeming like more of a long shot the Detroit front office would even be interested in dealing Howard to begin with.

Seravalli’s piece also suggested Matt Murray could be a goalie on the move

After capturing two Stanley Cups in his first two years, something no other goaltender in the history of the NHL has done, it would be shocking that Murray appears on this list. But it’s fair to wonder now whether Murray’s inconsistency and injuries have worn the Penguins’ patience thin. Murray is still incredibly young for a goalie, but he’s yet to play 50 games in any regular season and he won’t hit that mark this year. His ailments during his four-year career: two concussions, a broken hand, a head injury, an upper-body injury and now he’s sidelined with a lower-body injury. When he’s been healthy, Murray has just a .901 save percentage over his last two seasons. The tangle, of course, is that when it matters most Murray has been lights-out. That’s tough to reconcile, but the Penguins have been pleased with what they’ve gotten from Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith in the short-term.

Seems like a huge leap to suggest or “wonder” if the Pens are out of patience with Murray. And what would they trade him for? And to where? Not much adds up there.

Just seems like on Seravalli’s part he sees a veteran goalie one year out from UFA playing well (Howard has a 7-6-3 record, .922 save percentage and 2.68 GAA for a better than expected Detroit team) and ties him to two teams with aspirations but poor goaltending in Pittsburgh or St. Louis.

That said, Pens general manager Jim Rutherford isn’t going to sit back and be inactive. Murray can’t stay healthy and has played poorly when he’s been in there. Casey DeSmith has generally been pretty good, but has also given up more actual goals than expected in his past 5 starts. Tristan Jarry wasn’t the answer last night giving up a few soft goals.

The personnel the Pens have aren’t making enough saves collectively. The Pens are in the bottom third of the league right now with a .911 save % at 5v5. That’s not going to cut it and as everyone in the NHL knows, it’s a performance league and changes are going to happen when a team that expected to contend is being held back by its goaltending.

Trading a first round pick for Jimmy Howard would be way extreme in this scenario (especially with the Pens currently out of the playoffs and potentially looking at a higher than normal draft pick). However, the overall tone and tenor here probably isn’t that far off that Pittsburgh is probably anxious to improve its goaltending.

The easiest solution is the most obvious though - that the team try to get Murray healthy again and performing up to his capabilities. There’s really no sense in surrendering a huge asset for an overall average-type of goalie to hope that would magically repair all the issues the team is experiencing.