The Pittsburgh Penguins’ general manager Jim Rutherford has made it obvious the club will have to trade one of their young goalies. Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry are both restricted free agents this offseason, and the Penguins’ cap crunch will force them to move on from one of them. Jarry has gained the entire organization’s confidence, which signals Murray will be on his way out (from ‘Yohe: What we know about the Penguins’ offseason plans,’ The Athletic, 09/09/2020).
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun speculates the Penguins want a first-round pick in exchange for Murray. The Penguins should look for pieces with similar value to a first-round pick if they are unable to receive one.
What Rutherford’s Trades Tell Us
Rutherford has made a few trades after the Penguins’ play-in round exit. The first was for Kasperi Kapanen, Jesper Lindgren, and Pontus Aberg. In return, the team traded away a 15th overall pick in 2020, Evan Rodrigues, Filip Hallander and David Warsofsky to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The second move saw Nick Bjugstad traded to the Minnesota Wild for a seventh-round pick, and the Penguins retained 50% of the forward’s cap hit.
The two transactions are examples of what Rutherford is looking for in a trade. The Kapanen trade shows he is looking to acquire players who are ready to play for the club now and not in a few years, since they traded away the 15th overall pick. A trade for Murray could return a forward or a defenseman who has played quite a few games in the NHL. The Bjugstad trade shows the organization is trying to clear cap space, which suggests the Penguins could dump a big contract along with Murray.
The Flames’ season ended after a Game 6 loss to the Dallas Stars. They held a 3-0 lead but allowed seven unanswered goals, which made it obvious the Flames’ goaltending needs to improve. Cam Talbot started the game and allowed four goals on 15 shots, while David Rittich allowed three goals on nine shots.
TSN’s Darren Dreger has reported the Flames have shown interest in trading for the Penguins’ netminder. Murray, a two time Stanley Cup champion, has playoff experience, which the Flames will need. They have made it past the first round once in the past five seasons. A potential trade between the two teams could see the Penguins acquiring Rittich and a young forward in Sam Bennett.
The Flames drafted Bennett with the fourth overall pick in 2014, but he has not lived up to expectations as he posted 128 points in 364 games through six seasons. The Penguins will benefit from adding Bennett since he will fit in perfectly as the team’s third-line centre behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. As for Rittich, the Flames would retain 50% of his contract, which has one season remaining, and he would be Jarry’s backup.
Similar to the Flames, goaltending has been a glaring issue for the Oilers, and there have been reports they are interested in Murray as well. The Oilers failed to make the playoffs after they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Qualifying Round. The club has a promising future with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl leading the way. For them to take full advantage of the two, they need to acquire a goaltender, and Murray is a good option for them.
The problem for the Oilers will be the amount they will be paying their two goaltenders. Murray will likely demand close to $5 million per season, and Mikko Koskinen has two seasons at $4.5 million remaining.
The Hockey Writers’ Jim Parsons noted if the Oilers acquire Murray and keep Koskinen, they’d have close to a $10 million cap hit for their netminders. Therefore, the club would have to trade the Finnish goaltender and re-sign pending free agent Mike Smith.
The Oilers have to retain 50% of Koskinen’s contract in a trade for Murray to make it work for the Penguins, who have limited cap space. They should add Tyler Benson and Ethan Bear or Matthew Benning. Benson is only 22 years old, but has spent the last two seasons in the AHL and has posted 105 points in 120 games with the Bakersfield Condors. They add a young offensive forward who is looking for an opportunity to play in the NHL. The Penguins should add Bear or Benning to the trade since they have limited options on the right side of their defense, as Justin Schultz is heading to free agency.
The Avalanche’s season ended in Game 7 of the second round after they lost their starting goaltender, Philipp Grubauer, in Game 1. The club had three goalies start in the playoffs, as Pavel Francouz took over for Grubauer, but was ruled unfit to play before Game 5, opening the door for Michael Hutchinson to start. Avalanche insider, Adrian Dater, stated he’s heard Murray will be the organization’s starting goalie next season, regardless of the current situation for the other goaltender’s. Out of the three netminders, Hutchinson is the only one who will be a free agent this offseason.
Francouz and Grubauer split starts all season long, but since the Avalanche are looking to make Murray their starting goalie, one of the two will be on the move. Francouz has a cheaper deal at a combined $4 million over two seasons, while Grubauer has one season at $3.33 million. The Penguins will likely take the Czech goaltender since his cap hit is lower for the next two seasons. The 30-year old has played 36 games in his career and would be a backup for Jarry.
Additionally, the Penguins should take Valeri Nichushkin for some depth on the wing. Nichushkin is coming off a Selke worthy season and is a great two-way player for the Pens to add. They can also add a 2021 second-round pick to sweeten the deal.
The Senators are a young, up and coming team in the NHL and are an ideal trading partner for the Penguins. The Senators have a projected $39.5 million in cap space heading into the offseason, and they have multiple picks in the 2020 NHL draft. The trade for a first-round pick is possible since the club has three first-round picks in this year’s draft. They also have a 39-year-old Craig Anderson, who will be a free agent this offseason. Anders Nilsson and Marcus Hogberg have not secured the starting job for the club, which gives them a reason to trade for Murray.
Related: Top 3 All-Time Penguins Goalies
The Senators have two picks in the top five, and it is unlikely they will give those up. The third first-round pick is from the New York Islanders and will range from 28th to 31st, which makes it a tradeable asset. The Penguins could add a player with a big contract to the deal. Fans of the club would love to see Jack Johnson traded away since he has three seasons remaining on his contract at $3.250 million per. The Senators are likely the best team for the Penguins to trade with since it allows them to add a late first-round pick and unload a big contract.
Murray Marks the End of an Era
With Jarry as the organization’s starter moving forward, Murray’s time with the Penguins will come to an end. Rutherford will look to either add a young player who is ready to play, dump a big contract, or add a first-round pick. An ideal trade would have all three, but Murray is not worth that much, especially with multiple goalies available through free agency.
Murray’s time with the Penguins featured back-to-back Stanley Cup wins. It also saw the end of Marc-Andre Fleury’s time with the club. Rutherford is hoping that Jarry can accomplish what Murray did. He’s also hoping the pieces the Penguins acquire will help them return to their Cup contender status.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.