NHL Hot Seat Radar: Pittsburgh Penguins
Welcome to the latest edition of THN Hot Seat, an ongoing series of THN.com chronicles in which we focus on one member of every NHL team who will face a lot of pressure in the 2022-23 season. The Hot Seat candidate could be an NHL player, head coach, team owner, or general manager. Today we take a look at the Pittsburgh Penguins.
HOT SEAT PENGUINS: TRISTAN JARRY, GOALKEEPER
WHY: There’s no doubt that the 27-year-old Jarry has been one of the best regular-season goaltenders over the past few regular seasons, but when it comes to the playoffs, his success hasn’t been. equal. Two years ago, Jarry had a memorable slump, posting an impressive .888 save percentage and 3.18 goals-against average. And last year, due to a lower-body injury he suffered in mid-April, Jarry played just one postseason game for the Pens – and then again. , his individual numbers (3.69 GAA, 0.867 SP) were nothing to be proud of. in.
However, Penguins general manager Ron Hextall reaffirmed his confidence in Jarry for the upcoming season. That’s to be expected of a former NHL goaltender who knows the pressures of the Pennsylvania market all too well. But if you look at the Pittsburgh goaltending situation through an unbiased lens, you can see how Jarry’s tenure with the Pens could end next summer.
On the one hand, there’s the fact that Jarry is in the final season of his current contract, which carries an average annual value of $3.5 million. If he makes it to the open market, there will be more than a few teams lining up to give him a significant raise – that is, if he continues to perform above average for most of it. of the season. However, if he struggles with his health again and fails to improve his playoff stats, Hextall and the Penguins could start looking in a new direction between the pipes. Replacement Casey DeSmith was re-signed for a contract extension this summer, but he’s 31 and has played 46 games combined over the past two seasons. He’s not the long-term answer in the Pittsburgh net.
Jarry has a new defense corps ahead of him in 2022-23, with veteran Mike Marino sent to New Jersey, and veterans Jeff Petry and former Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta brought in to give the Pens more experience. That said, both Rutta and Petry are in their 30s, and neither of them is the type of defensive competitor who can directly affect Jarry’s performance.
All of this means that Jarry will once again have to carry the brunt of the burden for Pittsburgh this year. He played a career-high 58 regular-season games last season and will likely have to make that many appearances again this year. If he succeeds, a contract extension that easily doubles his salary will be a certainty. If he can’t stay healthy for the playoffs and/or doesn’t succeed with a great postseason performance, Hextall has a very tough decision ahead of him.
Indeed, the Penguins need their veteran-laden roster to stay healthy, and the return of veterans Evgeni Malkin, Rickard Rakell and Kris Letang (all of whom could have left via unrestricted free agency) gives Pittsburgh enough firepower on offense to ensure he fight for a playoff spot again next spring. But, like most NHL teams, goaltenders will be central to the Pens’ win count. And it all comes back to Jarry. He’s had a few frustrating seasons, and the Penguins can’t afford another one this time around.