Canadian journalist Chris Johnston on Sportsnet had a very interesting update tonight during the second intermission of the Penguins vs. Maple Leafs game.
“The Leafs are currently in the market for a backup goaltender,” Johnston said. “Obviously they want to see what they can get [performance wise] in just more than one start from Kasimir Kaskisuo. But should that change at some point, a guy to keep an eye on is Tristan Jarry in the Penguins net right now. Pittsburgh’s in a unique position they have two very good goaltenders behind Matt Murray — that’s Jarry and Casey DeSmith who’s presently in the AHL. And I do believe that they would be willing to move one of these guys if the right offer came along.
“What makes Jarry so appealing at this point, he’s just 24, he’s had a great start to the season and he just counts $675,000 against the [salary] cap, which obviously would have appeal for a team like Toronto in a cap bind.”
While all of that is true, Johnston let it go unsaid what that “right offer” for the Pens might be. Also, this reeks of a typical Saturday night Toronto-centric “how does this affect the Leafs” type of perspective. What motivation does Pittsburgh have to send a goalie to Toronto? Johnston isn’t wrong to say the Pens are in an advantageous position right now with quality backup goalie depth. That’s true. But why would they give that up?
Goaltenders traditionally have VERY small value in the trade market. For whatever reason, they’re just not valued too highly there. Which is fine, but it still gives the Pens no motivation to offer up their position of strength to Toronto — especially when there’s usually no leverage from the position of having too many good goalies.
If Toronto offered more than Tristan Jarry was worth should the Pens trade him? Sure. But Jarry was a former second round pick and has been a very good backup this season, it would be difficult to think up a scenario that made sense to satisfy both teams. On top of that, Pens GM Jim Rutherford is a former goalie that knows goalie depth is super important. And he knows Matt Murray isn’t exactly an iron man, he’s a player who has suffered numerous small, random, possibly bad luck injuries over the years. That leads to even less motivation to turn a position of strength (affordable goalie depth) into one of potential weakness should someone suffer an injury.
Rutherford also famously kept both Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury in 2017 when it was clear that Murray had usurped the starting job. GMJR loves his goalie depth. That decision to not even consider trading Fleury paid off in spades when Murray got hurt and Fleury played spectacularly in defeating Columbus and Washington in the 2017 playoffs. As Rutherford knows, you’ll never be upset or in a bad spot electing to hold onto seemingly too many good goalies.
So for now, we’ll stay skeptical on this report. Casey DeSmith is stashed safely in the minors, there’s no real motivation or reason for Pittsburgh to deal a backup goalie unless some other team makes a mighty generous offer. And there really doesn’t seem to be a reason another team needs to make a mighty generous offer.