The Pittsburgh Penguins have encountered an up and down start to the 2021-22 season. There’s been lots of chatter about the injury bug and COVID-19’s ugly face, but there have also been a few players who have not performed to expectations. One, in particular, is backup goaltender Casey DeSmith, and it may be time for Penguins management to find a replacement.
So far this season, DeSmith has a 0-2-1 record with a 4.72 goals-against average (GAA) and a .856 save percentage (SV%). Needless to say, those numbers are not going to get it done or instill any confidence in Pittsburgh’s coaching staff to give starter Tristan Jarry a night off. Let’s dive into some potential targets should the Penguins decide it’s time to move on from DeSmith.
The obvious choice at this point as the veteran southpaw is sitting down at the American Hockey League waiting for his next call after being sent down recently due to a number of players returning from COVID-19 protocol. Domingue was brought into Pittsburgh to provide some depth, so why not give him a look in an NHL game? His numbers in the minors this season have been strong, as he’s stopped 92.1% of the shots he’s faced. Sure, it’s a different league, but his performance should at least warrant a look.
Domingue will likely be the first option for general manager Ron Hextall, and if he does not perform up to expectations, that’s where a trade or signing could occur. Considering the Penguins’ cap issues, it’s more likely we see a trade, so let’s move on to a couple of goalies who they could trade for.
The veteran netminder signed a one-year deal with the Vancouver Canucks this past offseason, which does carry a no-movement clause, so some convincing may need to take place here. However, when you’re playing on a struggling team and have a chance to jump ship to a potential playoff team, it’s likely Halak would listen.
The Canucks may be one of the first teams to either fire their coach or make a big move, and it could all start with a deal with the Penguins. Halak is making $1.5 million on the cap, which is comparable to DeSmith’s $1.25 million. So far, in his five appearances for the Canucks, the veteran netminder with 39 games of Stanley Cup Playoff experience has performed well.
Although he does not yet have a win, his 2.79 GAA and a .902 SV% are much stronger than DeSmith, and his 544 games of NHL experience speak for themselves. Halak would be a huge upgrade for the Penguins and is someone who should be near the top of their radar.
The 29-year-old journeyman is currently playing on the last-place team in the league, the Arizona Coyotes, and let’s just say it won’t take much to acquire him from the desert. The Coyotes claimed Wedgewood from the New Jersey Devils earlier this season, and in six appearances so far, he’s put up some nice numbers with a 2.54 GAA and a .908 SV%.
The Coyotes are on their way to a historically bad season and have full intentions of tanking in 2021-22. They currently have a slew of draft picks for the 2022 NHL Entry Draft and will likely take a late pick and a prospect to take Wedgewood off their hands. If DeSmith was part of the deal, the prospect would need to be a slightly better one or a higher pick, just because Arizona would be taking on more money in the deal. Wedgewood is someone who should be on the Penguins’ wish list as he’s a decent option to add behind Jarry.
The Penguins are 5-5-4 and have managed to keep their heads above water, considering the adversity early on this season. They have a number of players who need to start producing, and they also have some who they need to move. DeSmith should be the team’s number one priority to upgrade from, and these three goalies may be worth considering.
Shane’s been a part of The Hockey Writers team since 2020, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor, his versatile perspective on game results and everything off the ice produces diverse content. You can also find him on the Maple Leafs Lounge podcast with Peter Baracchini and Alex Hobson. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween