Jarry’s fu­ture

Pen­guins GM Ruther­ford can dan­gle a de­cent bar­gain­ing chip at teams

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Sports - By Ja­son Mackey

Casey DeSmith’s sign­ing could pre­cede an­other move from Pen­guins.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — While the Pen­guins have found their on-ice game, gen­eral man­ager Jim Ruther­ford has been fir­ing a few fast­balls of his own lately, sign­ing Jake Guentzel and Casey DeSmith to team­friendly con­tract ex­ten­sions.

It looks like strike three from Ruther­ford could be on its way, too.

While the GM said he’s thrilled to have DeSmith un­der con­tract for three more sea­sons be­yond this one, he also knows what it means on the back end: That the Pen­guins prob­a­bly don’t have space for for­mer sec­on­dround pick Tris­tan Jarry, 23, who could fetch a pretty penny on the trade mar­ket.

Cou­ple that with Ruther­ford’s (well-earned) rep­u­ta­tion as one of the NHL’s most ag­gres­sive GMs, a his­tory of strik­ing early and the fact that the Pen­guins soon will have nine NHL-cal­iber de­fense­men once Justin Schultz re­turns, and the signs are there for Ruther­ford to do his thing. And po­ten­tially soon. “By hav­ing Casey signed now, this gives us more op­tions go­ing for­ward, pos­si­bly even prior to the dead­line,” Ruther­ford told the Pitts­burgh Post-Gazette Sun­day. “I like the idea that we have some depth there, pre­par­ing for the play­offs, but some­times some­thing comes along that you have to con­sider and maybe do ear­lier than you want.”

One of the rea­sons this could get in­ter­est­ing is be­cause of the po­si­tion in ques­tion. Good, young goal­tenders are hard to find, and that’s ex­actly what that is. Plenty of teams could build around Jarry, and many al­ready have ex­pressed in­ter­est.

It also should be noted that time is tick­ing; Jarry’s two-way con­tract turns into a one-way pact next sea­son.

As a rookie in 2017-18, Jarry won 14 of his 23 starts with the NHL club and played to a 2.77 goals-against av­er­age and .908 save per­cent­age. Cou­ple that with a solid de­fense­man, and Ruther­ford should have no prob­lem pulling some­thing off — as­sum­ing he finds the right deal.

Among de­fense­men, Jamie Olek­siak is viewed as most likely to go for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, none of which are an in­dict­ment of his abil­ity. He’s a per­fectly ca­pa­ble NHL de­fense­man.

One fac­tor here is money. Mov­ing Olek­siak would give the Pen­guins $2,137,500 of cap space; a trade would not re­quire them to back­fill that spot be­cause of the depth on their ros­ter.

Olek­siak also is signed for two more years be­yond this one. Hav­ing that sort of costcer­tainty, for a player who has a phys­i­cal el­e­ment to his game and func­tions per­fectly fine as a third-pair de­fender, Olek­siak should not be hard at all to move should the Pen­guins de­cide to go that route.

Re­gard­less, Ruther­ford knows some­thing will hap­pen on the back end.

“We’re go­ing to have nine de­fense­men at some point,” Ruther­ford said. “I like the fact that we have nine, and I like our nine de­fense­men. But it would be hard to be­lieve that we would be able to carry nine when ev­ery­body is healthy. It’s tough with eight try­ing to keep guys get­ting some ice time and get­ting some games. So, yeah, we’re watch­ing that sit­u­a­tion.”

Take it a step fur­ther. Say the Pen­guins wanted to do some­thing big­ger and po­ten­tially up­grade their third-line cen­ter spot. Der­ick Brassard has shown signs of get­ting bet­ter, but they know they need more from that po­si­tion — and that line — to make an­other Cup run.

Think about it: In a the­o­ret­i­cal trade sce­nario, Ruther­ford could be dan­gling a top goalie prospect, a No. 5 de­fense­man with size and club con­trol and a cen­ter other teams could see as a fit if de­ployed dif­fer­ently.

All of that, and the Pen­guins could have more than $5 mil­lion go­ing out.

“I don’t have a good an­swer for that right now,” Ruther­ford said when asked whether he’s now po­si­tioned to do some­thing sig­nif­i­cant. “The thing that I can an­swer is that with this sign­ing, it could po­ten­tially give us more flex­i­bil­ity.”

Sign­ing DeSmith also was a pos­i­tive, Ruther­ford said, for the player him­self.

After work­ing his way up from the ECHL, DeSmith has stuck with it, per­se­vered and en­joyed a break­out year, win­ning 12 of his 13 starts while rank­ing 13th along qual­i­fy­ing goal­tenders in goal­sagainst av­er­age (2.53) and tied for eighth in save per­cent­age (.921) en­ter­ing Sun­day.

“He stuck with it when lots of guys wouldn’t,” Ruther­ford said. “You get to that stage of your hockey ca­reer and you’re not sure where it’s go­ing. His de­ter­mi­na­tion got him to the Na­tional Hockey League, and he’s played very well for us.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

Pen­guins’ goal­tend­ing prospect Tris­tan Jarry has put gen­eral man­ager Jim Ruther­ford and the team in an in­ter­est­ing sit­u­a­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.