The Pittsburgh Penguins need a save. The team sits with a 6-6-3 record after the first 15 games and one of the biggest factors is their goaltending. Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith have yet to find their games and management is going to keep a close eye on what other options are out there should the Penguins’ current tandem continue to provide mediocre play.
Let’s examine one long-term solution and one short-term solution on the goalie trade market that should be on the Penguins’ radar:
Thatcher Demko, Vancouver Canucks
A surprise candidate indeed, Thatcher Demko is having a bad season with the Vancouver Canucks and the Penguins should be inquiring about his availability. The 26-year-old is under contract through the 2025-26 season at a very reasonable $5 million per season. He also does not hold any trade protection and can be moved at will by management.
The Canucks are currently 4-9-3 on the season, good for second last in the Western Conference. There’s been a lot of talk about foundational changes being made to the roster, and moving Demko would certainly fall under this category. He’s a long-term solution for the Penguins, who could easily shore up the future of their crease with this move.
Demko was a pre-season Vezina candidate but, unfortunately, his play has been nowhere near elite. The 6-foot-4 netminder has a 1-8-2 record with a 4.02 goals against average (GAA) and a .874 save percentage (SV%). Horrible numbers considering what was expected in 2022-23 and his recent history, as Demko has recorded a .915 SV% in each of his last two seasons.
The move here would be trading Jarry in a package for the Canucks’ goaltender. Canucks management loves Kasperi Kapanen, so perhaps he could become a throw-in. This trade would likely hinge on Jarry signing a long-term extension in Vancouver, something the Surrey, British Columbia native would likely have a ton of interest in. This would be a foundational change for both franchises, but one that does make some sense. The Penguins were hesitant to commit to Jarry long-term last summer and now could have a chance to move on from him and land a very capable starter in Demko.
James Reimer, San Jose Sharks
A less sexy name, no doubt, James Reimer of the San Jose Sharks is also an option for Penguins management. The veteran goalie continues to post respectable numbers on a very bad team, year after year.
Reimer is a pending free agent who makes $2.25 million against the cap this season. The 34-year-old holds no-trade protection against five teams; however, it’s extremely unlikely he wouldn’t be open to joining Sidney Crosby and the Penguins.
Reimer has posted a .908 SV% this season and in 48 games in 2021-22, recorded a .911 SV%, quite impressive considering he’s playing behind a struggling team. This trade wouldn’t be centered around Jarry, and instead, DeSmith would be the one heading south to California. He’s signed through next season at $1.8 million and could give the Sharks a steady option in goal as the team continues to work through the beginning stages of their rebuild.
The Sharks are open for business as the basement dwellers are looking towards the future. There’s certainly potential that any trade talks could materialize into a blockbuster as the Sharks don’t have many untouchables. Reimer is a prime trade candidate this season, even without a ton of Stanley Cup Playoff experience under his belt. He’s a savvy veteran who is a great personality in the dressing room and someone who won’t disrupt things if he’s not getting a ton of playing time or if things aren’t going well.
Penguins Management Should Stay Open Minded
With the core of the team aging quickly and the Penguins holding constant in a win-now environment, landing a long-term solution in net should be their number one priority. If Jarry is someone the franchise can’t trust long-term, the time is now to pounce and make a move.
With the Canucks struggling and the circumstances with their management duo coming from Pittsburgh, their familiarity with Jarry, and his ties to the B.C area, this trade proposal is one that I feel has some legs. It’s not often a goalie like Demko becomes available, someone who can compete at an elite level and is under contract for the next three seasons at a very respectable cap hit of $5 million. Personally, this is a trade I would be exploring if I had any say in the Penguins’ front office.