Some fans still hold the 2021 playoffs against Tristan Jarry. The Pittsburgh Penguins outplayed the New York Islanders, but untimely soft goals and a ghastly turnover in Game 5 sealed the Penguins’ fate. Happily for the Penguins, management was not part of the crowd, which did not forgive, and Jarry was again an NHL All-Star last season.
He was a primary reason the Penguins survived injury woes that rivaled the worst in the league and sunk a few teams’ seasons. Jarry earned the mid-season All-Star honor with a save percentage over .930, a goals-against-average that bubbled below 2.00. He finished at .919 and 2.42.
Most importantly, Jarry was unbeatable when the Penguins needed him. Unlike his predecessor, Matt Murray, Jarry did not have a quick rise to the NHL. The organization forced him to earn each opportunity, and the fourth-round pick Murray zoomed past the 2013 second-rounder, Jarry.
Tristan Jarry, 27, also wants to be a free agent next summer and just one of two starting netminders under 34 years old who will be a UFA. Alex Nedeljkovic is the other potential UFA closer to his draft day than AARP.
Jonathan Quick will be 37, Semyon Varlamov will be 35, and Frederick Anderson will be 34. That’s next summer’s UFA class. No, it will not be a bumper crop for anything but stopgaps and goalies shuffling off to retirement.
The price for Jarry is already climbing.
The Penguins’ salary cap picture is flush with cash for 2023-24. The Penguins have committed $62.5 million to 16 players for 2023-24. That means the team will have A LOT of cap room.
After GM Ron Hextall bet heavily on the present to get Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin under contract and under market value, the team cannot afford to sacrifice the present with spotty goaltending or a goalie who isn’t yet ready.
Joel Blomqvist and Filip Lindberg would be the two goalies who could eventually supplant Jarry, though that’s a tall order. Jarry is well above average in most measurable statistics.
Last season, Jarry had a GSAA (goals saved above average) of 21.1, which ranked seventh in the NHL. That put him just ahead of the presumed best goalie in the league, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and well ahead of other goaltending luminaries such as Sergei Bobrovsky and Connor Hellebuyck. Jarry was just behind Frederick Andersen and Juuso Saros in the GSAA category.
Now, about the playoffs…
As PHN reported during the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Round One loss to the New York Rangers, Jarry was adamant that he play. The goalie not only played Game 7 with an injured foot fully wrapped in ice after the game, but sources close to Jarry told us the goalie had to push for the start.
He let the coaches know that was his net, and he wanted it.
That sort of attitude and drive goes a long way with teammates. It was a featured selling point of Murray.
Last summer, Andersen, 32, signed a two-year, $9 million deal with the Carolina Hurricanes after absorbing a bit too much blame for yet another Toronto Maple Leafs Round One collapse.
Saros is a much better comparison. Last summer, the goalie (then 26 years old) signed a four-year, $20 million deal with the Nashville Predators.
Two years ago, John Gibson (then 27) signed an eight-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks, sporting a $6.4 million AAV. Matt Murray also got just north of $6 million for four years at 27 years old.
That’s about the going rate for Jarry, plus inflation. Since the NHL salary cap is going up, and so too are housing prices, gas prices, food prices, cost of cars, and everything else, Jarry figures to be in the $6-7 million range over five to seven years.
Jarry is settled as a pro. His longer road to the NHL proved more beneficial to creating a solid goalie than the highway that Matt Murray rode to Stanley Cups. After a few years toiling with the WBS Penguins, Jarry has two seasons as an unquestioned starter, a third if including the season he surpassed Murray, two All-Star Games, two campaigns with top-10 Vezina votes (7th in 2020 and 2022) , and the trust of his teammates.
The Penguins cannot do better. So, why try?
The salary cap for 2023-24 will go up, too, giving the Pittsburgh Penguins and Hextall even more room to work. The worst thing that could happen is a big cap hike, and a few teams find themselves with unexpected money to spend and a need in the net.
And, should Blomqvist or Lindberg elbow past Jarry, as Murray did to Fleury and Jarry did to Murray, then Hextall will have a shiny trade chip in high demand.
It’s a win-win for the Penguins. They cannot let Jarry even get a whiff of free agency. While the fountain pen still has some ink and the conference room is clean from a handful of other re-signings, Hextall should put a good offer before Tristan Jarry and lock him up, too.
It’s not like the Penguins can waste any of the next few years with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang while they groom another goalie or settle for UFA scraps.