Ron Hextall offered comments to the media today for the first time since training camp. Coming out of the All-Star break, this was a planned meeting to give some general usual updates on the state of the team.
Penguins “would like to get better” via trade
Hextall on plans for the trade deadline: "We would like to get better. Sometimes getting better is making a move that is a better fit than what we have. When I look at our team on paper, I like our team. When I look at some of the games and the results, I don't like it as much."— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 5, 2023
At this time of year in the period leading up to the trade deadline, Hextall has said something along the lines that he “likes the depth of his team”. Then he goes out and augment the roster with an addition via a trade (Jeff Carter in 2021, Rickard Rakell in 2022). His words aren’t as cut and dry and absolutely predictive of the future — unlike the GM he replaced, who pretty much laid out an open road map for what he wanted to accomplish and then went out and attempted to do just that.
Anyways, the standard line is more or less what Hextall repeated again this year. He seems pretty comfortable with what is on hand for his roster, but is less pleased with some of the game results that have the Penguins in the range of fourth place in the division, according to points%.
Forward looks like the primary focus
When asked if the bottom-six would be a target area, Hextall responded, "I think it's fair to say. The chemistry there hasn't been like we hoped it would be... over the course of the year, it hasn't been that great. That's somewhere we can look to hopefully improve."— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) February 5, 2023
Bringing in a player like Anaheim’s Adam Henrique, Chicago’s Max Domi or St. Louis’s Ivan Barbashev could go a long way to stabilizing and adding some talent to Pittsburgh’s third line. Naturally, specific targets were not detailed by Hextall at this point, but those are the some players believed to be available and could fit the mold of what the Pens could be looking to add.
Hextall on the upcoming trade deadline and if he feels pressure to make a deal: "It's really dangerous to feel like you have to make a deal... We're only going to make a deal if we think someone will fit better with our group. I'd like to make a deal to make our team better."— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 5, 2023
Given cap constraints and limited trade ammunition, the Penguins don’t appear like they are looking for major or sweeping changes at this point. Hextall’s comments today don’t indicate a lot of panic or pressing need, but again given his tendency to speak shrewdly and closely guard his hand like he’s at the poker table, that is not a surprise.
Tristan Jarry is day-to-day, more consistency needed from goalies
GM Ron Hextall on Jarry: "He's still day-to-day. He made improvements over the break. I think the break probably did him some good. He did some rehab on his own. He's skating today. We're going to monitor the progress from here, but we certainly don't expect him to be out long."— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 5, 2023
Jarry missed the last three games going into the break after suffering an injury on January 24th. Third string goalie Dustin Tokarski was returned to Wilkes-Barre of the AHL with the NHL team off all week, but has been recalled. Jarry skated on his own prior to practice, he did not join the full team.
Hextall says the Penguins have been very inconsistent. Same goes for the goalies. Says DeSmith has been very good at times and at other times, not as good as they need him to be. Looking for more consistency as a whole. #Pens— Wes Crosby (@OtherNHLCrosby) February 5, 2023
Although DeSmith’s season stats usually balance out favorably, he is prone to stretches of way up play followed by struggles and low lows. DeSmith surrendered 13 goals (plus a few more in a shootout loss) in the three games that he played leading into the break. The Pens have been inconsistent defensively, but as the GM notes they could use an extra save or two that they haven’t been getting lately.
Pittsburgh only has four games on the schedule in the first 16 days of the month of February, so given the day-to-day status for Jarry, it doesn’t look like the team is expecting their starting goalie to miss too many more games in the future.