Penguins’ Roster Stability Beyond 2016; Jarry Recalled

Pittsburgh Penguins’ general manager Jim Rutherford has done a fantastic job transforming his team into a Stanley Cup contender.

Maybe just as important, he has created a stability that the Penguins’ roster has not seen for a number of years.

Only nine players remain from the last team led by Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma in 2013-14. That is a big roster shift, and the remaining players don’t tell the whole story of the dramatic turnover rate. Trades and one-year contracts created a turnstile in the Pittsburgh locker room.

Now looking ahead, the majority of the Penguins’ players are under contract for next season and beyond. The only unrestricted free agents this upcoming offseason are Matt Cullen, Ben Lovejoy and Jeff Zatkoff. Beau Bennett and Justin Schultz are restricted free agents.

Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Olli Maatta are all locked up in long-term contracts. The rest of the roster is signed at least through next year, but in most cases at least two more years.

Two very important players in Patric Hornqvist and Carl Hagelin are signed for two and three more years respectively. The Hagelin contract is an important one, as Rutherford swapped an expiring David Perron contract for a player that is a much better fit, and under control for a lot longer.

Salary Cap Concerns Eased by Value Players

There are salary cap concerns, but the team does have some things going in its favor.

When Lovejoy’s contact expires, it will free up a sizeable amount, and the team could trade Chris Kunitz or Marc-Andre Fleury, if necessary.

The Penguins also figure to have several Wilkes-Barre players continuing regular NHL duties next year. Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary, Scott Wilson, Oskar Sundqvist and Tom Kuhnhackl should all have prominent roles on the team, while Derrick Pouliot and Matt Murray are already there. Each of these players are on contracts of less than $1 million per year, and will still be restricted free agents when their deals expire.

Many of these players can be credited to Shero, but praise Rutherford for putting it all together.

The club has possibly their greatest stability at goaltender. Fleury is signed for three more years, while goaltender Tristan Jarry are still bargains on their entry-level contracts,

The (Potential) Pittsburgh Goalie Crisis

With Fleury and Murray being questionable for the start of the playoffs, many have been looking at Jarry for a possible call up. He was indeed recalled on Sunday, setting off panic among Penguins fans.

Prior to the roster move, via Twitter, I asked Russ Hryvnak, who covers the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for, what he thought about Jarry’s preparedness should his services be needed in the NHL playoffs. The below Tweets contain our conversation.

Thanks to Russ for the information. I highly recommend that you check out his work. He does a great job.

It is not written in stone that Jarry was recalled because Fleury and Murray are not able to go. The team appears to be calling it “practice depth” at the moment.

It would be a lot to ask of Murray to take the load in the postseason, and he has already had some success at the big level. For Jarry to have to play should anything happen to Zatkoff would be a stressful experience. That being said, the team would already be in a bad way should Zatkoff himself have to see any considerable time.

At this point, the Penguins have not said anything official about Fleury and Murray. One would hope that playing Murray in the first place on Saturday was a vote of confidence that Fleury would be available soon.

I guess we will all find out in due time. If the big boys are unable to go, it could be an interesting first round.

Until next time.