There was some news yesterday in the NHL when the Columbus Blue Jackets inked goalie Elvis Merzlikins to a two-year contract extension worth $4.0 million annually.
This is interesting for the Penguins because Merzlikins was a first year goalie who found a lot of success in 2019-20. Which makes for obvious parallels in Pittsburgh with another first year goalie in Tristan Jarry.
However, Merzlikins probably provides a cap for what Jarry can expect, because Merzlikins had a superior season, though very similar.
This contract will be of extreme interest for Jarry, to be sure. Jarry has arbitration rights. Add in Jordan Bennington’s $4.1 million annual salary, and it looks like there’s a case that he could be somewhere in that neighborhood. What is clear is that it doesn’t take a lot of experience or much of an NHL resume these days for young goalies to start cashing in, if they produce results in the NHL.
Which could present problems for the Penguins. Matt Murray’s contract is up too, and he’s one year away from unrestricted free agency. Murray has carried a $3.75 million cap hit, and though his stats aren’t great, he also has two Stanley Cups on his resume.
Complicating matters is that, no one really knows yet what the 2020-21 salary cap will be right now. Even the NHL’s right hand man, Bill Daley:
Daly tells @TSN1040 it's too early to speculate about the 2020-21 salary cap. Ultimately, it will come down to an agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA.— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) March 19, 2020
There’s a lot in the air, and almost everything is unknown. But what is known is the Penguins currently have $68.275 million in salary commitments next year for 14 players. They might be able to wiggle out of some of those contracts in the future, but a contract like Columbus just put on the books really has to call into question after this pandemic if Pittsburgh can keep both Murray and Jarry. Surely that would be general manager Jim Rutherford’s preference if he can pull it off....But it might be pretty interesting to see how that happens.
Obviously this will be a major storyline in the offseason will be how the Pens address their goalie issues with both not having contracts. But both are at least restricted, so Pittsburgh is dealing from a position of power in these decisions when it comes to who might be signed and/or traded. Beyond that, more questions than answers exist in so many regards, but you can safely say there’s a lot of joy in the Jarry camp to see another young goalie sign a rich, short contract.