The biggest piece of the puzzle for the Penguins to figure out this summer might just be in net. It’s known they need upgrades and to change for some forwards and maybe shuffle around a player or two on defense, but the situation at goaltender is wide open and possibly the most influential decision.
Will the Pens want impending free agent Tristan Jarry back? Will he even want to come back or seek greener pastures elsewhere? With Kyle Dubas in the fold you would think he at least surveys the options and thinks more freely than someone with ties or more connection to Jarry.
The free agent pool of goalies is not very appealing, it might take a trade to bring in a new netminder.
The biggest prize on the trade market looks like Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck. However, he is one year away from free agency himself, and should have a line of teams out the door possibly lining up to make an offer who have more to offer from Los Angeles, New Jersey, Ottawa, Toronto, Carolina and Vegas, as listed by Daily Faceoff. Pittsburgh wouldn’t have the resources to compete with a serious offer from many of those clubs.
Which could mean dropping down a tier. Per Daily Faceoff, John Gibson has asked Anaheim for another trade.
Scoop: Gibson has let the Ducks know that after 10 seasons, he is ready for a change of scenery. With little defensive support, Gibson was tagged with the worst statistical season of his career. Amazingly, Gibson’s save percentage was still exactly league average (.899), which is an indication of how much game he has left. How much better would those numbers look on a properly constructed (read: not rebuilding) team? That’s what has teams wondering. Gibson was available last summer, but at a high price. Considering the term remaining on his deal, even if his cap hit is fine, it’s still a large commitment. Would the Ducks be willing to retain a chunk to get Gibson in line closer to $5 million to make a move more palatable? He makes sense as a replacement for Tristan Jarry in Pittsburgh, which happens to be Gibson’s hometown.
Another report was cited by Lisa Dillman from the OC Register to add a little more insight
So it makes sense that Gibson – who will turn 30 on July 14 – would be looking for a new opportunity at this stage of his career. But wanting a trade and actually making it happen are two separate things. There are teams such as the Kings and the Pittsburgh Penguins that could use a goaltender of his caliber but might have a hard time accommodating his salary cap number and/or providing the significant assets that Verbeek would demand in return to move a player of Gibson’s pedigree.
This recent reporting raises several red flags that should instantly limit the chances that Gibson makes a return to Western PA.
For starters, it’s been taken for granted outside of Anaheim that the Ducks would seek much value out of trading Gibson, outside of the benefit of clearing his significant salary. Gibson’s $6.4 million cap hit currently ranks as the fourth biggest goalie cap hit in the NHL. Let alone be looking for the “significant assets” that Dillman writes that Anaheim GM Pat Verbeek would allegedly be demanding, backed up by Seravalli’s reports of a “high price” for Gibson last summer. If that remains Anaheim’s positioning, the Pens wouldn’t (or you’d at least hope) be incredibly interested in trading away a lot for an expensive 30-year old goalie who has four straight seasons of unimpressive stats. That doesn’t make a ton of sense with other options.
From restricted free agents such as Boston’s Jeremy Swayman or Minnesota’s Filip Gustavsson to other potential targets like Vancouver’s Thatcher Demko or Arizona’s Karel Vejmelka, Pittsburgh has plenty of avenues to explore. Which all goes without mentioning the possibility that they keep what they have in Jarry in the first place.
Demko, in particular, shares a lot of similarities with Gibson at this stage for a talented and well-regarded goalie trapped on a middling team. In Vancouver, they’re already over the salary cap for next year and might have more appetite to get younger and cheaper in goal, where we’re now learning that Anaheim might not be so open to that.
Given Gibson’s performance lately, with a .902 save% and -29.8 GSAA in the past four seasons, and just how much it’s believed his team wants for him, that makes it difficult to see a path forward to Pittsburgh in the near future.
The fit might be there, but the risk on a player whose team impacts have hurt his performance don’t lead to a lot of confidence in giving up a large trade offer to take on four more years of a big cap number.
Unless something drastic changes or Kyle Dubas has a tremendous pull towards hitching perhaps the fate of the last days of the Sidney Crosby era to Gibson, the dots are there but don’t seemingly connect for this player and team. Until Gibson finds a new team and the Pens find a true number one goalie to lock down their net, the Whitehall native will be tied at least in passing to his hometown team. But beyond the natural fit, the details don’t add to a perfect match.