The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed 22-year-old Finnish goaltender Emil Larmi to a two-year, entry-level contract, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.
The deal runs through the 2020-21 campaign and has an average annual value of $700,000 at the NHL level.
The 6-foot, 183-pound goaltender is coming off of a championship season in 2018-19 with HPK of Finland’s top professional league, Liiga. Larmi appeared in all 18 playoff games for HPK, going 12-6 with a 1.72 goals-against average, a .932 save percentage, and two shutouts, both of which came in the finals. He is teammates with current Penguins prospect Niclas Almari, who also recently signed an entry-level deal with Pittsburgh.
”Emil is coming off of a fantastic playoff run with HPK, and has proved himself to be one of the best goaltenders in Liiga,” said Penguins goaltending development coach Andy Chiodo, who has extensively scouted Larmi in Finland. “He’s an athletic and mobile goaltender that reads the game well and is highly competitive. We are excited for Emil to join our organization as he transitions to life and hockey in North America.”
Larmi, who went undrafted in the NHL, has spent the past three seasons with HPK as their starting goaltender, compiling a 50-44-29 record (wins-losses-ties), 2.07 goals-against average, .931 save percentage, and 15 shutouts. He finished the 2018-19 campaign with the Liiga’s third best goals-against average (1.94) and was tied for the third-most shutouts (4).
This is an interesting move for the organization’s depth too. Matt Murray and Casey DeSmith are entrenched as the NHL goalies, of course, but now Pittsburgh is flush with contracts even before traditional free agency starts on July 1.
The Pens have Larmi, Alex D’Orio and Tristan Jarry also signed to NHL contracts, of which they only get 50. Jarry in particular is a curious case, as the former second round pick has a contract that ensures he makes $700,000 next season, whether he is in the NHL or not. He would not count against the NHL salary cap if stashed in the minors, but that is a real expense for the bottom line.
So in the interests to save a bit of money and also give Jarry a new start, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him included in a trade this summer. Given that he’s 24-years old and not established in the NHL at all, he probably carries little to no trade value though, as goalie trade market is always notoriously soft.
It remains to be seen what happens for Larmi, who now joins a long line of undrafted free agents goalies signed lately by the Pens. From DeSmith to Jeff Zatkoff to John Curry and Brad Thiessen and Eric Hartzell we’ve seen time and again that Pittsburgh is active in trying to find goalies that slip through the draft and develop a bit more in post-draft years.
Time will tell if Larmi has a DeSmith or a Hartzell-type of trajectory as a professional, but it’s a necessary chance to take for a team like Pittsburgh that doesn’t have a lot of draft picks these days due to trades, so they don’t usually spend draft choices on goalies very often. In fact under the five drafts under Jim Rutherford, the Pens have only selected one goalie (Filip Gustavsson in 2016, who they’ve since traded).