This is one of the most important offseasons the Pittsburgh Penguins have had in years with big decisions to be made all over the place. We have already seen one decision get made with the re-signing of Bryan Rust, and general manager Ron Hextall still seems determined to get something agreed to with Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang before they can reach the unrestricted free agent market.
That will not be easy, of course. Not only do you have to come to terms on two major contracts with two superstars, but you also have to do it within the confines of the salary cap and stilll leaving yourself enough wiggle room to add pieces around them and ice a competitive hockey team.
Those decisions are the focal points of the offseason storyline, and for good reason. They are the franchise players, and what happens there will have a significant impact on the 2022-23 team. What the Penguins do this offseason will also tell us a lot about what they think of the short-term prospects of the team. The Rust signing might already offer us a window into their thought process (re-signing him suggests they are not ready to rebuild).
But there is another position that is going to need some attention this offseason and carry some more potential question marks and decisions. That of course is goaltending.
Here is the situation there: Tristan Jarry is obviously the starter, but he is entering the final year of his contract and will be eligible to sign a new contract extension. He will be eligible for unrestricted free agency after the 2022-23 season.
Backups Casey DeSmith and Louis Domingue are unrestricted free agents this offseason, while Alex D’orio is a restricted free agent.
Let’s start with Jarry.
Would it be worth it for the Penguins to act now and look to extend him, and what would that sort of contract look like?
Jarry’s resume is fascinating because in his three seasons as the Penguins’ top goalie he has two All-Star appearances under his belt. There have been some highs. But there have also been some lows and inconsistencies, and we still have no idea what to make of him as a playoff goalie given that he had one dreadful performance and one performance this season where he was limited to a single game where he was clearly less than 100 percent.
Give his overall production (a .915 all situations save percentage over 150 appearances), as well as the market for goalies, plus his current salary cap number, an extension would probably fall somewhere in the $5-6 million range.
How confident are you in investing in Jarry with that sort of contract for the long-term right now? How confident are the Penguins in doing so? How comfortable are they in waiting and letting him use this season as a prove-it year? The risk there, of course, is that Jarry has a great year in a contract year and see his price skyrocket even more, or perhaps drives him to the UFA market where he might be able to really cash in.
While there is no need to make a decision on Jarry this offseason, there is a necessity when it comes to the backups.
DeSmith’s overall numbers ended up fine this season, but he was borderline unplayable at the end of the 2020-21 season and the first part of this season.
The question becomes whether or not you can find an upgrade at the right price.
Looking at the potential UFA market and guys like Darcy Kuemper, Jack Campbelll, and Ville Husso are going to be out of your price range for a backup, and they are going to be starters anyway. Or at least potential starters. You can dream about a Marc-Andre Fleury reunion if you want, but that ship seems like it has sailed.
Then there are a bunch of goalies like Martin Jones, Mikko Koskinen, David Rittich, and Jaroslav Halak that are probably not any better at this stage in their careers than what you already have.
Braden Holtby would be an intriguing option as a backup or 1B type player to pair with Jarry because I think he still has a little something left in the tank. He might not only be an upgrade over DeSmith as a backup, but could also be a nice safety net if Jarry were to struggle.
Domingue was a nice story for a bit in the playoffs, but I think he is entirely replaceable as both an AHL goalie and potential third-string NHL goalie. I do not see a need to bring him back.
No matter what they decide, they have some decisions to make at the position this offseason. It is another series of important decisions in an offseason full of them.