Matt Murray or Tristan Jarry likely will be traded by the Pittsburgh Penguins before next season, and GM Jim Rutherford hinted that Murray, who helped the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017, could be the goalie to go.
“There are a lot of goalies out there, but let me ask this question: How many 26-year-old goalies who have won two Stanley Cups are available right now?” Rutherford said in remarks published by The Athletic on Wednesday. “There are a lot of goalies out there, and a lot of good ones. There’s no question about that. But those guys out there on the market haven’t done what Matt has done. To me that’s the difference, and that’s why teams want him. That’s the way I’m looking at it moving forward.”
Murray, 26, can become a restricted free agent Oct. 9. He’s third in Penguins history with 117 wins in the regular season, behind Marc-Andre Fleury (375) and Tom Barrasso (226). His 29 postseason wins are third, behind Fleury (62) and Barrasso (56).
This season, Murray was 20-11-5 with a 2.87 GAA and an NHL career-worst .899 save percentage in 38 games (38 starts) while sharing the starter’s role with Jarry, another pending RFA.
Jarry, 25, was 20-12-1 with a 2.43 GAA, a .921 save percentage and three shutouts in 33 games (31 starts), and played in the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis on Jan. 25.
Rutherford first told The Athletic on Aug. 24 that Murray or Jarry likely would be traded. He said Wednesday that although it’s possible the Penguins could retain both goalies, the chances are remote.
“Sure, there is a way we could do it,” he said. “But to be honest, I just don’t think it’s something that would work for everybody.”
Murray signed a three-year, $11.25 million contract ($3.75 million average annual value) with the Penguins on Oct. 20, 2016 after he went 15-6 with a 2.08 GAA, a .923 save percentage and one shutout in 21 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to help Pittsburgh win the Cup. He was 7-3 with a 1.70 GAA, a .937 save percentage and three shutouts in 11 games in the 2017 postseason en route to another championship.
Fleury was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft.
“I’m just going to take it step by step through the process with them both being restricted free agents,” Rutherford said. “We’re in a similar spot right now that we were in with Fleury back in 2017. We wanted to keep him here. We truly did. But (salary) cap-wise, it just wasn’t going to work. We couldn’t do it. You get to that point with goaltenders sometimes. And look at the direction that Matt Murray‘s salary is going in. It would be very hard to make it work. It’s a very, very similar situation.”
The Penguins, the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference after finishing the regular season with a .623 points percentage (40-23-6), lost to the Montreal Canadiens, the No. 12 seed (.500; 31-31-9), in four games in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers. Murray started three of those games, going 1-2 with a 2.50 GAA and a .914 save percentage. Jarry started Game 4, his NHL postseason debut, and made 20 saves in a 2-0 loss.
Pittsburgh has since revamped its roster by acquiring forward Kasperi Kapanen as part of a six-player trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Aug. 25. Forward Nick Bjugstad was traded to the Minnesota Wild on Sept. 11 for a conditional pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, and forward Patric Hornqvist was traded to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Mike Matheson and center Colton Sceviour on Sept. 24.
“I’m more comfortable with the roster now than I was when the season ended,” Rutherford said. “I had the goals of wanting to get faster and wanting to get younger. Well, Kapanen is probably going to be the fastest player at his position on our team. And Matheson is probably going to be the fastest player on our team at his position. They’re both really young (Kapanen is 24 years old, Matheson is 26). So, yeah, that’s going to make us better in my opinion.
“I would expect more things could certainly happen. I wouldn’t bet on the team we have now being our roster on opening night, whenever opening night happens to be next season.”