Pittsburgh Penguins fans should be gearing up for what’s going to be one of the wildest offseasons in franchise history. After ownership cleaned house at the executive level, the search for a new leadership team has begun and once some folks are in place, there’s a ton of work to be done to get the Penguins back into the Stanley Cup contender conversation.
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One area of focus is goaltending and what’s to be done with recent starter Tristan Jarry. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent who is set to hit the open market on July 1 and to this point, the organization hasn’t been committed to a long-term relationship with Jarry moving forward. I’m curious to see what the new regime has in mind as Jarry has made it clear he’d like to stick around, meanwhile there’s expected to be a number of goaltenders available this summer. While I’ve focused previously on a couple of potential free-agent targets, let’s dive into a trio of trade candidates who could become available for the Penguins:
Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
Perhaps the most talented netminder who has become a potential trade candidate, Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets is an elite goalie who has the tools to steal games when it matters most and in Pittsburgh, would be an absolute perfect fit.
The Jets are very alike the Penguins as they are currently in a world of unknown. There’s been a lot of speculation brewing about what direction the team is headed and considering how much drama went on at season’s end with the disconnect between the coaching staff and the players, it wouldn’t shock me if some of the biggest names in Winnipeg are moved.
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Hellebuyck is 29 years old and is signed for the 2023-24 season at $6.1 million. He does not hold any trade protection and has made it clear he’s not interested in a rebuilding team and wants to win a Stanley Cup. If the Jets go in the direction of rebuild, the Penguins need to pounce. Hellebuyck is in his prime, he’s a Vezina candidate year in and year out and is coming off a season where he posted a .920 save percentage (Sv.%) in 64 games.
Yes, Hellebuyck would cost a pretty penny to acquire, however with only one season left on his contract, the package may not be as big as you think. The Penguins could start the trade conversations with Drew O’Connor, Ty Smith and goalie prospect Joel Blomqvist.
The Anaheim Ducks and John Gibson are a relationship to watch this upcoming offseason as I believe a change of scenery could do wonders. While the Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres could all have interest, Gibson’s 10-team no-trade protection could steer him into the Penguins’ arms.
Could we see a hometown kid lead the Penguins back to the promised land? It’s certainly closer than it’s ever been as Gibson’s time in Anaheim appears to be coming to an end. He hasn’t been the elite netminder he once was these past couple of seasons but honestly, I’d take his stats with a grain of salt considering how bad of a team the Ducks rostered as they continue to rebuild from scratch.
Gibson will start next season 30 years old and with four seasons left on his contract paying him $6.4 million annually. The new management regime will have $20.2 million to work with for cap space and who knows at this point which contracts will be traded this summer. Regardless, there’s financial room to fit Gibson in and whoever is running the show should consider the move. With a solid team and some defensive structure, the Pittsburgh native could find his game with the Penguins and return to his elite form.
The Ducks are looking to shed payroll more than anything so the trade package to acquire their starting goalie may not be as pricey as some think. If Jarry isn’t going to be the future of the Penguins crease, Gibson should become an option.
One interesting goalie to watch this summer will be Edmonton Oilers current backup Jack Campbell. ‘Soup’ was signed last summer by the Oilers and was expected to be their starter who was going to lead the team to a deep Stanley Cup Playoff run. After going 21-9-4 in the regular season, Campbell has taken a back seat to rookie Stuart Skinner, who has been starting during the team’s playoff run and is nominated for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.
With Campbell being inconsistent, sitting on a brand new contract and with Skinner showing the Oilers he’s capable to take the net, the veteran netminder could easily become a trade candidate this summer. He’s signed through the 2026-27 season and his trade protection only keeps him away from 10 teams. Playing alongside Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin is likely something the 31-year-old would be open to for next season and beyond.
Campbell wasn’t himself during the regular season in 2022-23, however he’s shown in his two appearances these playoffs that he can provide some stability when his team needs it most, posting a .947 Sv.%.
The Oilers netminder owns an impressive career record of 93-48-18 and with the Oilers only having a projected $2.8 million in cap space to work this upcoming offseason, and with Skinner in the fold, look for Campbell’s name to hit the trade market and the Penguins likely having interest. There’s been a lot of rumors about Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas being on ownership’s radar. Well, if Dubas is hired and the team needs a starter, my money is on a trade to acquire Campbell from the Oilers as these two go back decades to when both were in the Ontario Hockey League.
There’s a ton of unknown in Pittsburgh and that stems from the top down all the way into the crease. Jarry has been inconsistent at times and has battled numerous injuries throughout the past two campaigns. Look for the new Penguins brass to consider all of their options once hired, including what’s available on the trade market which may just be the upgrade the team needs over Jarry moving forward.