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Fixing the Penguins’ Goalie Issue through Free Agency

The Penguins have one question that dangles above the rest this offseason: goaltending. Former GM Jim Rutherford extended Tristan Jarry last season at a mild rate of $3.5 million for 3 years. Between him and DeSmith, they proved to be a capable tandem before Jarry’s playoff undoing. GM Hextall’s comments at his year-end presser left a vote of confidence that Jarry will return as the starter next year. As scary as that sounds, Jarry and DeSmith being the combo in net is the most likely option for the start of next season. Should they pivot and search for a new 1A to pair with Jarry or DeSmith, they’ll tap into a goalie market that is rich in quantity, but questionable in quality. Here are a few potential options the Penguins might target this off-season. 

Tuukka Rask

The long-tenured Bruin is a goalie that has done it all and is a perfect fit for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He historically has dominated the Penguins and his playoff pedigree is of the highest regard. He has the most playoff experience of all the available options. In their lone playoff meeting in 2013, Rask was 4-0 with a .946 save% and 1.44 GAA. This season Rask won both starts against Pittsburgh and allowed only 3 goals on over 50 shot. Rask has this team’s number, but it seems like Boston may be heading in a younger direction in goal. If available, he would be a significant upgrade for the Penguins. 

Freddy Andersen

Once upon a time he was the answer in net for the burgeoning Maple Leafs. Now he’s the incumbent back-up in Toronto. Injuries may have lost him the starting job, but he was only 13-8 in his 24 GP this season. And with their acquisition of Jack Campbell last season, the Leafs decision seems clear on who will be in goal next season. Would the Penguins take a flyer on a guy like him? He hasn’t imploded in the playoffs like their current starter, but is he that much of an improvement?Between 2016 and 2020 he started 50+ games for the Leafs. He also has over 50 games of playoff experience and boasts post-season stats of 2.55 GAA and 916 SV%.

Philipp Grubauer

The best goalie available, in my humble opinion. He plays behind a fantastic team, arguably the best team in the league on paper. Still, his run of steady play and timely save-making ability in Colorado is astounding.  His biggest question is whether he is a product of great play in front of him or is his skill set that high? If it is, he could command a higher salary than any other goalie on the market. He was also just announced as a 2021 Vezina finalist, which should impact his contract demands. He will be sought after if Colorado does not retain him. Another question mark for me is his endurance, as his most starts in a season occurred this year at 39 starts. Could he start 50-55 games and give you the same performance? 

Linus Ullmark

He finished his year well in the monstrosity that is Buffalo. He has upside, that’s clear, but how much remains unseen. Leaving Buffalo would help, but I’m bullish on if he is a Stanley Cup caliber goalie. If GM Hextall wants to add competition and push the current goalies on the roster, this is the guy to target. He’s a big presence in net, at 6’4, but moves well for such a towering player. A tandem of him and Tristan Jarry or Casey DeSmith is a mysterious, albeit intriguing, thought.

Rank of available goalies

  1. Tuukka Rask
  2. Philipp Grubauer
  3. Linus Ullmark
  4. Freddy Andersen

I believe any of these goalies would provide an upgrade to their current situation, especially paired with one of the goalies currently on the roster. All of the mentioned goalies have question marks, but the Penguins are not in a fortunate position in net. Adding depth, whether it is a new starter or someone who pushes for playing time, should be priority number one. Only then will the current questionable situation in goal transform into an area of strength.