The Pittsburgh Penguins goaltending situation has sparked speculation of potential trades for a new goalie. The team has used the tandem of Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith so far this year, but the duo have had some unconvincing and inconsistent performances, to say the least.
Jarry, the team’s new number one is in his first full season as a starting goaltender after a stellar 2019-20 season earned him a new contract and had him chosen in favor of two-time Stanley Cup Champion goaltender Matt Murray, who was shipped to the Ottawa Senators. Since then, the 25-year-old earned a three-year extension worth $3.5 million but has struggled to find his form and settle as legitimate number one. His cap hit is a reasonably low one that makes his contract both tradeable, and attractive to other teams. The former second-round pick (44th overall) of the Penguins has appeared in eight games this year with an overall record of 3-4-1, carrying a GAA of 3.82 and a .864 save percentage.
On the other hand, DeSmith, the team’s backup, has appeared in six games thus far and carries an impressive 4-1-0 record with a 2.84 GAA and a .885 save percentage. Despite the 29-year-olds impressive start to the season, it would be far too high of a risk to roll with him as a number one.
Regardless of what a trade for a new number one goalie will look like, it is unclear whether one of the Pens netminders will be involved in a deal. Ideally, the team will look to find a proven and experienced number one to solidify the position for them. There are several key candidates who will likely be considered by the Pens and have been well on their radar for various different reasons.
Here are the top candidates that could be a fit for the Penguins:
1. Marc-Andre Fleury
Could a reunion with a Pens legendary goaltender be on the rise? It was not so long ago that the team left their star goaltender unprotected in an expansion draft, in favor of keeping Matt Murray, a move that did not exactly work out as planned for the Pens. Now, a whole four years later, it has been reported that the Pens are interested in bringing their former first overall pick in 2003 back to Pittsburgh.
The 36-year-old has already stated that he would love a chance to finish his career with the team that drafted him, and with him now splitting time with Robin Lehner, the Golden Knights will be looking to offload one of the two large contracts their goaltending tandem carry. The team won three Stanley Cups with Flower, and he played a key and integral part of the Golden Knights historic cup run in their inaugural season. The Quebec-native has appeared in 856 career games over 17 seasons, 13 of which were spent wearing a Penguins uniform. He has built up a Hall of Fame resume and exhibits an attitude that fans, teammates, and organizations love to have around their team.
The team’s interest in a reunion has grown as the season has progressed, but Fleury’s play has caused a rise in his stock as he holds a 7-1-0 record in eight appearances with a 1.38 GAA and .944 save percentage, as well as two shutouts. He carries a cap hit of $7 million over the next two seasons which will mean salary retention will be necessary to bring him back to Pittsburgh. It is safe to say that given his history and experience, he is the number one candidate whom the Pens will likely try hard to acquire.
2. John Gibson
The rumors surrounding a deal sending John Gibson to the Pittsburgh Penguins have swirled in recent weeks, however, the deal will take a lot of work to happen. The Anaheim Ducks netminder would be a great acquisition for the Pens and serve as a long-term solution to the teams goaltending struggles. Acquiring Gibson would turn the team into a legitimate contender. The 27-year-old is arguably one of the best goalies in the league which would mean a heavy return would be necessary for a deal to be possible.
A Pittsburgh-native, the opportunity to play for his hometown team would surely make a potential trade to the Pens an attractive proposition for the goaltender. He is a former second-round pick (39th overall) in the 2011 draft and has been the Ducks’ number one goalie for the last six seasons. The Ducks, who are in the midst of a rebuild have started off the season well, holding a 6-7-3 record which has them sitting in fifth place in the West division. If the Ducks continue to progress and remain in the fight for a playoff spot, it will be difficult to lure the American goaltender away from the team. The former William M. Jennings trophy recipient in 2015 has six years left on his contract worth $6.4 million per season and carries a no-trade clause that allows him to submit a 10-team no-trade list.
The 6’2 goaltender plays a calm, composed, and quiet style of game and is very difficult to beat as he moves well in the net and has consistently proven his worth. Gibson has appeared in 300 career games and posted a 2.52 GAA and a .918 save percentage with 22 shutouts in that time. He will definitely top the list of candidates for the Pens to try to acquire but given his age, statistics, and teams status, it will take a large package that the team may not be willing to ship to the Ducks in order to get them to part with their star goaltender.
3. Devan Dubnyk
The name Devan Dubnyk has slowly drifted away from the goaltending discussion around the league but his experience makes him another potential candidate for the Penguins to consider. He was traded from the Minnesota Wild to the San Jose Sharks in the offseason and has appeared in just six games this season. Despite encouraging performances, he still does not have a win under his belt in the final year of his contract. The netminder signed a six-year deal in 2015 with the Wild that carries a cap hit of $4.3 million. However, the Wild retained salary in the deal with the Sharks which would leave him with a $2.166 million cap hit for the rest of the season if he were to be moved again, a very affordable contract for the Pens.
The former Edmonton Oilers first-round pick (14th overall) is in his 12th NHL season, playing for his fifth team. The 34-year-old achieved his greatest success at the NHL level with the Wild where he was the teams starting goaltender for five seasons, being a Masterson trophy recipient in 2014-15. The Regina-native has appeared in 526 career games and holds a record of 247-198-53 and carries a GAA of 2.59, a save percentage of .915, and 32 shutouts. In four of his six seasons as a member of the Wild, he carried a heavy workload above 60 games.
The experience, affordable contract, and veteran presence that Dubnyk would bring to the team would be of great interest and low-risk for the Pens. Although he struggled to find his form last season which saw the Wild move on from him, a fresh start with a team of the Penguins caliber could be a great opportunity for Dubnyk to prove he is still a number one in this league. However, in order for the trade to happen, the Canadian goaltender would have to waive his no-trade clause to move to Pennsylvania for the rest of the season.
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4. Pekka Rinne
How weird would Pekka Rinne in a Pens uniform look? Very…but this could be a real possibility considering the Nashville Predators are likely to move on from the veteran very soon. With Juuse Saros slowly taking over the crease, and the Preds drafting highly-touted prospect Yaroslav Askarov 11th Overall in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Rinne’s time with the team seems to be coming to an end. The former eighth-round pick (258th overall) in the 2004 draft certainly is not the Vezina trophy winner he was in the 2017-18 season but carries a lot of experience, composure, and an impressive resume. In 668 career games, he boasts a 362-206-74 record with a 2.42 GAA, .917 save percentage, and 58 shutouts. He has played his entire career with the Preds and is in the final year of his $5 million dollar contract that includes a no-trade clause. He would need to waive the clause for the Penguins to acquire him.
The 38-year-old has seen a steady decline in his game over the past few seasons but is still a very capable goaltender. It is unclear what his plans are beyond this season, but it is reasonable to believe that the Preds would only part ways with him via trade if they are out of the playoff picture. Regardless, in order for a trade to happen, the Preds will need to retain salary which will leave the Penguins slightly overpaying for the 6’5 netminder. Seeing as the Finland-native is on an expiring contract and is still looking to add a Stanley Cup to his already fantastic resume, the Pens could be a good landing spot for Rinne.
5. Jonathan Quick
Another name that seems to have slipped under the radar in recent seasons is Jonathan Quick. The rebuild that the LA Kings are currently experiencing has caused their goaltender’s stock to drop immensely. However, it is no secret that Quick is one of the most exciting, confident, athletic, and flashy goaltenders in the league. The 35-year-old has seen a significant decline in his stats over the past few seasons, but many question whether the team in front of him is main culprit for those underwhelming numbers. The former third-round pick (72nd overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft backstopped the Kings to two Stanley Cup championships, winning the Conn Smythe trophy in 2011-12. He has also been a recipient of the William M. Jennings trophy twice. The Milford, Connecticut-native has played in 650 NHL games and holds a 327-242-69 record with a GAA of 2.41 and a .913 save percentage, topped off with 52 shutouts.
Since the last time the team hoisted the Cup, the Kings have seen a heavy decline of their stars, making the playoffs just two times, and being eliminated in the first round on both occasions. With Cal Petersen challenging him for the starting role in LA, and the Kings continuing to invest in their youth, it could be possible that they part ways with their long-time starting goalie. However, for the Penguins to acquire him, the Kings would need to retain salary on the transaction, as Quick carries a cap hit of $5.8 Million for the next two seasons. Ron Hextall’s close ties to the Kings organization make the possibility of this move increasingly more likely, although based on their goaltenders’ recent form, it will be a risky move for the Pens who will be on the hook for his contract for two more years, even if Quick cannot find his old form.
6. Elvis Merzilikins
This is the wildcard of the candidates available, and one of the more unlikely trades to happen. Elvis Merzilikins has only been in the NHL for a short time but has more than proven that he is a solid goaltender. The former third-round pick (76th overall) of the Columbus Blue Jackets has only appeared in 40 career games and holds an overall record of 15-11-9, as well as a 2.44 GAA and .920, save percentage, alongside five shutouts in his rookie year. The 26-year-old began last season as the backup to Joonas Korpisalo but was quickly pushed into a starting role when Korpisalo went down injured and did he ever impress.
It is more likely for the Pens to look for a veteran or more experienced goaltender to solve their issues, however, if they decide to look for a young alternative with a lot of potential and upside, Elvis would definitely be on their radar. In the offseason, the Blue Jackets inked him to a two-year extension with a $4 million dollar cap hit. He has begun the year backing up Korpisalo again, and with Matiss Kivlenieks knocking on the door, the Blue Jackets find themselves as a young goaltending factory. The Latvia-native has appeared in seven games this season holding a 2-2-1 record and could be a legitimate option for the Pens. His speed, athleticism, and composure have impressed many scouts, as he exhibits the same traits and confidence of an experienced netminder. Regardless, this option is highly unlikely due to the gamble the Penguins would be taking by going with Elvis as their new number one, and the Blue Jackets would likely expect a big return for their young prospect.
There will be no rush for the Pens to find a goaltender just yet as they remain in fifth place in the division, with an overall record of 7-5-1. However, Ron Hextall and Brian Burke will surely be inquiring about the availability of the goaltenders listed above to see what their alternative options to Jarry may be if his struggles continue.