There has been a shift in the hockey world, or at least a willingness to consider a shift in mentality and strategy regarding goaltenders, and the Pittsburgh Penguins goaltending situation and contract talks by Tristan Jarry could be ground zero to prove or disprove the new theorem. .
Do teams really need an expensive, bonafide No. 1 starting goaltender?
On the one hand, the Florida Panthers are in the Stanley Cup Finals because their beloved franchise goaltender finally showed up after a season of inconsistency. Without Bobrovsky, Florida was toast in the first round.
Conversely, the Carolina Hurricanes and Vegas Golden Knights were in the conference finals without a real starting goaltender. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils were in the second round without a franchise goaltender.
Teams with a legitimate franchise guy in the pipeline, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, are the Winnipeg Jets, didn’t survive the first round. And how do we rank future Vezina Trophy winner Linus Ullmark in Boston, who didn’t escape the first round?
I first heard about the “new way of thinking” several weeks ago. And then another league source mentioned it.
Teams, perhaps led by analytics, perhaps led by their eyes, are openly considering goalie tandems or a pair of Type 1A goaltenders.
What does this mean for the Penguins and Tristan Jarry?
Many “mainstream” thinkers (including me) have opined on the need for the Penguins to have a top-notch starting goaltender, and since Jarry is the only one out there, the Penguins have to pay (in reasonable limits).
However, the Stanley Cup playoffs teach us something different. This should give GMs pause.
Returning to the situation of Tristan Jarry, if a new Penguins general manager is not comfortable with his health history and performance level, he leaves or sets a lower value commensurate with the risk, leaving more money to fortify the position.
And the worse things get, the more I’ll call it a mulligan advocating that the Penguins pay Tristan Jarry at least $36 million over six years.
No, it is not necessary to do so. The risk and reward factor no longer seems to be skewed towards fear of losing, but fear of suffering injury and inconsistency, but being locked into another albatross contract.
Of course, there is a flip side. If Toronto had a legitimate starting goaltender, could they have overturned the second round? If Edmonton had a solid goaltender, could they have beaten Vegas in the second round?
If the Buffalo Sabers had an NHL-quality goaltender in the pipeline, would they have made the playoffs?
The Dallas Stars are struggling in the Western Conference Finals because they rammed Jake Oettinger into the ground. They have a good goaltender but have driven him like a tireless franchise keeper into the ground giving him over 60 appearances this season. He looks gassed.
The opposite is important because it secures the bookends.
The answer becomes even clearer when defining the extreme or extremities of the spectrum. The answer is in the middle. A franchise goalie is a wonderful commodity, but an average #1 goalie doesn’t need to be overpaid. A team cannot win with a flexible goalkeeper either.
A franchise type OR a strong pair of goalies seem like the way to go.
With a tandem, there is a risk that neither keeper will get traction. That seemed to be the case in Toronto, where Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov traded more trouble than good streaks. And Edmonton, where Jack Campbell’s performance fell off the table, and they were forced to mount Stuart Skinner.
New Thought / Pittsburgh Penguins?
The new philosophy takes some getting used to. For example, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan might have used Casey DeSmith more often in the second half when Tristan Jarry was injured. The long held thought is that if your starting keeper is available, they start. There is no fault on Sullivan for putting the best goaltender in the net.
But remove the “starting goaltender” label, and the situation becomes something different.
The Penguins only needed one more win, right?
At this point in his career, Tristan Jarry has shown top potential, but will he become a franchise goaltender? The new CEO will have to decide. If the answer is no or probably not, avoid a big contract or just walk away.
Overpaying a non-elite starting goaltender is certainly not the solution.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will have other options to build a reliable goalie situation. Other teams are leading the way.