Avoid drama, Penguins must sign Jarry to a new contract

Some fans are still holding the 2021 playoffs against Tristan Jarry. The Pittsburgh Penguins outplayed the New York Islanders, but untimely weak goals and abysmal Game 5 turnover sealed the Penguins’ fate. Luckily for the Penguins, management was unforgiving, and Jarry was named an NHL All-Star again last season.

He was a big reason the Penguins survived injuries that rivaled the league’s worst and sank a few teams seasons. Jarry earned mid-season star honors with a save percentage over 0.930, a goals-against average under 2.00. He finished at .919 and 2.42.

More importantly, Jarry was unbeatable when the Penguins needed him. Unlike his predecessor, Matt Murray, Jarry did not enjoy a rapid rise in the NHL. The organization forced him to win every opportunity, and fourth-round pick Murray overtook 2013 second-rounder Jarry.

Tristan Jarry, 27, will also be a free agent next summer and only one of two starting goalies under 34 who will be a UFA. Alex Nedeljkovic is the other potential UFA closer to its draft day than AARP.

Jonathan Quick will be 37, Semyon Varlamov will be 35 and Frederick Anderson will be 34. This is next summer’s UFA class. No, it won’t be a bumper crop for anything other than stopgap and retiring goalies.

Jarry’s price is already climbing.

The Penguins salary cap is packed with money for 2023-24. The Penguins have $62.5 million committed to 16 players for 2023-24. This means that the team will have LOTS of space for caps.

After general manager Ron Hextall bet heavily on the present to get Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin under contract and below market value, the team can’t afford to sacrifice the present with an unequal goalie or a keeper who is not ready yet.

Joel Blomqvist and Filip Lindberg would be the two goalkeepers who could eventually supplant Jarry, although that would be a tall order. Jarry is well above average in most measurable stats.

Last season, Jarry had a GSAA (Goals Saved Above Average) of 21.1, which ranked him seventh in the NHL. That puts him just ahead of the league’s presumed best goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and well ahead of other goalkeeping luminaries like Sergei Bobrovsky and Connor Hellebuyck. Jarry was right behind Frederick Andersen and Juuso Saros in the GSAA category.

Now, about the playoffs…

As PHN reported during the Pittsburgh Penguins’ first-round loss to the New York Rangers, Jarry was adamant he was playing. The keeper not only played Game 7 with an injured foot completely covered in ice after the game, but sources close to Jarry tell us the keeper had to push for the start.

He let the coaches know it was his net, and he wanted it.

That kind of attitude and drive goes a long way with teammates. It was a star selling point of Murray.

Last summer, Andersen, 32, signed a two-year, $9 million contract with the Carolina Hurricanes after taking a little too much blame for another first-round slump for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Saros is a much better comparison. Last summer, the then 26-year-old goaltender signed a four-year, $20 million contract with the Nashville Predators.

Two years ago, John Gibson (then 27) signed an eight-year contract with the Anaheim Ducks, sporting a $6.4 million AAV. Matt Murray also received just over $6 million for four years at age 27.

That’s roughly the going rate for Jarry, plus inflation. With the NHL salary cap going up, along with housing prices, gas prices, food prices, car costs and everything else, Jarry estimates it will be between 6 and 7 million dollars over five to seven years.

Do it.

Jarry is installed like a pro. His longer road to the NHL proved more beneficial in creating a strong goalie than the highway Matt Murray took to win the Stanley Cup. After a few years of hard work with the WBS Penguins, Jarry has two seasons as an undisputed starter, a third if you include the season he passed Murray, two All-Star Games, two top-10 vote campaigns in Vézina (7th in 2020 and 2022), and the confidence of his teammates.

The Penguins can’t do better. So why try?

The salary cap for 2023-24 will also increase, giving the Pittsburgh Penguins and Hextall even more wiggle room. The worst thing that can happen is a big cap hike, and a few teams end up with unexpected money to spend and a need in the net.

And, if Blomqvist or Lindberg were to overtake Jarry, as Murray did with Fleury and Jarry with Murray, then Hextall will have a bright trade chip in high demand.

It’s a win-win for the Penguins. They can’t even let Jarry feel free will. While the fountain pen still has ink and the boardroom is clean of a handful of other re-signers, Hextall should make a good offer before Tristan Jarry and lock him in as well.

It’s not like the Penguins can waste any of the next few years with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang while they nurse another goalie or settle for UFA scraps.