Tristan Jarry‘s role as the No. 1 goalie for the Pittsburgh Penguins could be in question entering the offseason.
Jarry was asked Friday if he thought he would remain the starter next season, two days after the Penguins were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders in Game 6 of the first round.
“That’s [the Penguins’] decision. It’s out of my control,” the 26-year-old said. “There’s nothing I can do about that. It’s up to them. It’s up to management. I think just having a good summer, pushing myself and just coming back as the best version of myself is all I can do.”
Jarry had an .888 save percentage in six playoff starts, the lowest in the NHL among goalies with at least three starts. His 3.18 goals-against average was second highest, behind St. Louis Blues goalie Jordan Binnington (3.59 when swept by the Colorado Avalanche).
The Penguins stuck with Jarry after goalie Casey DeSmith was sidelined with a soft tissue injury in his groin sustained during practice May 14, two days before Game 1. Unless a goalie is brought in during the offseason, Jarry and DeSmith could compete entering training camp.
“I think in the playoffs, obviously wish it would’ve went better,” Jarry said. “There were some things that I could do differently. Some things I can learn from. Next year, there’s a lot of room for improvement for me.”
Jarry has two seasons remaining on his contract and can become an unrestricted free agent after the 2022-23 season. DeSmith can become an unrestricted free agent after next season. Maxime Lagace, who backed up DeSmith in the playoffs, can become an unrestricted free agent after this season.
“I’m not prepared to share the details of our discussion,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “I think that’s between Tristan and I. But what I will tell you is we talked about his development as a player. Some of the positive things and the progress that’s made, areas where we think he can improve and get better.”
Jarry entered the season as the Penguins’ No. 1 goalie after Matt Murray was traded to the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 7. Murray was the primary starter after Marc-Andre Fleury was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft.
Fleury and Murray each won multiple championships with the Penguins (Fleury in 2009, 2016 and 2017; Murray in 2016 and 2017).
“Obviously, there were a lot of expectations,” Jarry said. “A lot of things, I guess, you learn. It was a bit of an up-and-down year for me, just playing the games that I did. I guess I had a bit of a rough start at the beginning of the year. I was able to pick it up and play a lot of good hockey.”
Jarry was 25-9-3 after a 2-4-1 start. He was named to the NHL All-Star Game last season, when he was 20-12-1 with a 2.43 GAA and .921 save percentage and three shutouts splitting time with Murray.
“I truly believe he’s a No. 1 goalie that got the job done for us all year long,” Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. “It’s been two years in a row that he’s been one of the best at his position. I truly believe we have a great goaltender on our hands.”
Jarry was criticized following Game 5, when he attempted a pass up ice that was intercepted by Islanders forward Josh Bailey, leading to a goal over his glove 51 seconds into double overtime for a 3-2 loss. He then allowed five goals on 24 shots in Game 6.
“I think he’s one of the best goalies in the League,” Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson said. “I know there’s been a lot of attention and a lot of blame on him through the series. But I think that’s unfair. It’s a team game.”
In spite of how the season ended, Jarrry said his confidence hasn’t waned.
“I’ve played a lot of good hockey this year,” he said. “I’ve played a lot of games and went through a lot of learning and teaching moments. I think that’s going to make me a better person and better player. You learn from those experiences. Those experiences are something that you hold with you and take with you.
“I think it’s something that will push you to be better. I will be better next year.”