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Penguins solve salary cap crunch by waiving Casey DeSmith

Hello Tristan Jarry, new NHL backup goalie

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Buffalo Sabres preseason Abby Drey/Centre Daily Times/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

In order to become cap compliant the Penguins were going to have to make a tough cut or a trade, and the first order of business has been a cut. Casey DeSmith has been placed on waivers.

We’ll find out at noon tomorrow if DeSmith clears waivers. If so, he’ll go to the AHL and the Penguins will be (narrowly) under the salary cap.

There are also reports out there that Jack Johnson will be traded within the next 24 hours — about 75-80% of a chance yesterday according to The Athletic. The clock keeps ticking on that and we’ll see how that goes.

The Pens had reportedly been trying to trade either DeSmith or Tristan Jarry, but as general manager Jim Rutherford had said, the market for goalies has been tough. That makes a lot of sense, being as teams don’t have any need to trade an asset for a goalie that they know would end up on waivers at the end of training camp.

Related: Salary cap math: Laying out scenarios on how the Penguins clear (at least) $331,000 in the next week

One other interesting item is that the Winnipeg Jets also used waivers to solve their goaltending situation, cutting Eric Comrie. Comrie is four years younger than DeSmith and has a much friendlier contract — two years at league minimum of $700,000, compared to DeSmith’s three seasons of $1.25 million — so it would be interesting to see if other NHL teams in search of goaltending upgrades would pick Comrie over DeSmith.

Jarry is a similar age and salary to Comrie, so financially the easier goalie to sneak through waivers for Pittsburgh would doubtlessly be DeSmith. Jarry has done his part of the equation by having a very solid camp, playing at least even with DeSmith — which was always a big question and something the team needed to see. It wouldn’t have made sense to keep a lesser backup goalie just because of financial concerns.

But there’s no doubt that finances as it relates to staying under the salary cap are in play big time for Pittsburgh - the club wanted to sign Marcus Pettersson to a long-term deal this summer but did not have the cap room to do so. They were able to strong arm Pettersson into accepting a one year deal at his qualifying offer rate, since the young defenseman didn’t have any arbitration rights or salary leverage.

Similarly, the difference in salary between DeSmith and Jarry means a lot too. As you can see the math worked out in the link four paragraphs above, waiving Jarry alone wouldn’t have made the Pens salary cap compliant, they also would have had to waived a defenseman in Chad Ruhwedel or Juuso Riikola.

If the rumors are true that they are about to move Johnson, they definitely don’t want to risk having another defensemen sent through waivers, so if you’re just looking to read between the lines and see good news on that front, keeping all the defensemen they would need to move on without Johnson is still an aspect, intended or not, that is in play.