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Penguins add goalie depth, sign free agent Dustin Tokarski to a one-way deal

The Penguins pay some $ to add more depth

Buffalo Sabres v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Penguins at one point played NHL playoff games this spring with Louis Domingue and Alex D’Orio as their healthy goalies.

Today, on the first day of free agency, the Pens paid a premium to add a level of better depth, in the form of Dustin Tokarski.

From the team:

The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed goaltender Dustin Tokarski to a one-year contract, it was announced today by general manager Ron Hextall.

The one-way deal runs through the 2022-23 and has an average annual value of $775,000.

Tokarski, 32, is coming off of a career year in 2021-22 with the Buffalo Sabres, appearing in 29 games, going 10-12-5 with a 3.27 goals-against average and one shutout. His 10 wins and one shutout (tied) were both career bests.

The 6-foot, 198-pound netminder has 76 games of NHL experience over parts of eight seasons split between Tampa Bay, Montreal, Anaheim and Buffalo where he’s gone 22-32-12 with a 2.14 goals-against average, a .902 save percentage and 2 shutouts. He also has five games of Stanley Cup Playoff experience with the Canadiens in 2014.

Tokarski has played parts of 12 seasons in the American Hockey League with Norfolk, Syracuse, Hamilton, St. John’s, San Diego, Lehigh Valley, Hartford, Charlotte, Rochester, and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. In 363 AHL games, he went 193-121-33 with a 2.50 goals-against average, a .912 save percentage and 27 shutouts. The 2014 AHL All-Star is also a two-time Calder Cup Champion with Norfolk (2012) and Charlotte (2019).

Tokarski’s salary means that he gets paid an NHL rate, $775,00, no matter where he plays - in Pittsburgh or Wilkes-Barre. The Pens have Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith under contract, Tokarski will be the organization’s number three goalie that ideally would be able to stay in Wilkes and be a veteran mentor to the younger goalies like Filip Lindberg and Taylor Gauthier.

If/when Tokarski is demoted to the AHL, his full cap hit would disappear and not negatively impact the Pens’ NHL salary cap structure for any time spent in the minor leagues.

However, if injuries strike, Tokarski has a long NHL history and could provide a better stop-gap option compared to what the team has had on hand. The third string goalie is never, ever going to be a source of strength for an NHL club, but this is an instance where the Penguins are spending more real $$$ than they have to in order to try and do the best that they can for the situation down the road.

Can’t ask for much more than that, this is a real expense where the team could have signed a lesser goalie to a two-way deal and then just hoped that they didn’t need him at the NHL level. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh has been burned by goalie injuries the last two years at the most crucial of times. They know this is an expense well worth paying to have the luxury of the best and most experienced third string goalie realistically possible. Dustin Tokarski adds that for the Pens in 2022-23, even if they will hope it’s an investment that they don’t need to call upon.