The NHL and the NHLPA have reached a tentative agreement, so by all accounts it looks like the puck will be dropping on a new Pittsburgh Penguins season on Jan. 13. The team will be led by newly minted number one, Tristan Jarry, who is expected to have 29-year-old AHL veteran Casey DeSmith as his running mate.
While the divisional alignment is still awaiting confirmation, one thing we do know is the playoff formatting will look vastly different next season, with the top-four in each division making the playoffs.
With a condensed 56-game schedule and a flurry of back-to-back games and three games in four nights, goaltending depth is going to be what separates the good teams from the great ones. As it stands right now, the Penguins are at the bottom of the pack when it comes to experience in the crease. Jarry and DeSmith have a combined 105 NHL games under their belt, creating a giant question mark for the team next season. The Penguins will need a Jordan Binnington type of performance from Jarry if they want to get back to making deep runs in the playoffs.
Also considering the Penguins’ ability to be bitten by the injury bug almost every season, their management team is going to need to protect themselves from catastrophe.
Is a Tandem of Jarry and DeSmith Good Enough to Win the Stanley Cup?
It’s hard to say at this point as we have to give Jarry a chance to be a 1A goaltender to see if he can build off an all-star season, but there’s certainly a chance the Penguins go out and acquire some experience to help solidify their depth. Here’s three goalies to consider for cheap on the current open market.
No word yet if Ryan Miller is heading for retirement, but if the 40-year-old wants to play another season to chase the Stanley Cup, suiting up in Pittsburgh would be a solid option. Last season with the Anaheim Ducks, Miller appeared in 23 games and posted a .907 save percentage (SV%).
Miller is familiar to Pittsburgh from his days as a Buffalo Sabre, and considering the Pens won’t have much cap space to work with, bringing him in at $750,000 could work. The Penguins can currently afford to bring Miller in, meanwhile his old team in Anaheim would need to make room.
The 39-year-old would head to Pittsburgh on the cheap and still has the talent to contribute. Last season in Ottawa, Craig Anderson appeared in 34 games and managed a .902 SV% on a really bad Senators team. Some would argue Jarry could use a veteran mentor, and Anderson certainly fits the bill with 648 career NHL games under his belt.
While he’s certainly not a #1 goalie anymore, Anderson could be a solid backup next season for a Penguins team that will ice an underrated defensive group. Anderson’s name has been linked to the Penguins before, and with the likelihood his next contract would be for less than $1 million, he could be the perfect piece to add to the depth chart.
As you can see by the names involved, if the the Penguins are going to sign another goalie at this point, their options are very limited. So much so, they need to consider Howard and his 2-23 record from last season. Howard is long overdue for a change of scenery and at his age (36), perhaps there’s still one coming. Last season was a horrible one, no doubt, but looking back to the previous three seasons, his SV% was .909, .910, and .927. On a very strong Penguins team, Howard could easily hit the reset button.
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ goaltending depth is their biggest question mark heading into next season. With a condensed schedule, strong goaltending will be more vital than ever as one goalie won’t be able to handle the load. If the Penguins want to set themselves up for success, they are going to need to add to their depth chart and it could easily be accomplished by adding a cheap veteran to their mix.