By Brian Metzer
Pittsburgh Current Hockey Writer
Casey DeSmith has been quite a find for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The organization never dreamed that he’d blossom into an NHL-caliber goaltender when he signed with the Wheeling Nailers on June 30, 2015, but he has. There were times this season that he served as the Penguins’ starting goaltender and though his last two starts haven’t been spectacular, he’s combined with Matt Murray to form an outstanding duo.
This isn’t another story about DeSmith’s performance, so much as a look at the contract he earned based on that performance and how the Penguins now have the position locked down at a tremendous rate moving forward.
General Manager Jim Rutherford announced that the team signed DeSmith to a three-year contract extension that carried an annual average value of $1.25 million on January 11.
Goaltending – at least high level play at the position – has proven to be quite expensive in the league, so finding a way to lock it in on the cheap is a key, specifically for a team that spends to the salary cap like the Penguins.
Rutherford was already sitting pretty with the current contracts of Murray/DeSmith and is paying them a combined $4.25 million this season, which ranks fourth lowest in the league.
There are currently 16 teams paying one goaltender more than that combined total this season and the great news is that the situation won’t change much moving forward. Even after DeSmith’s new deal kicks in next season, the Penguins will be paying the 8th lowest ($5.27 million) combined salary for the position. There will also still be at least 12 teams paying one goaltender more than that amount.
Though the Penguins had some issues with goaltending early this season, they will have Murray — a two-time Stanley Cup winner — and DeSmith locked up through at least the 2019-20 season at that price. Murray will be a restricted free agent after that and could see his salary inflate, especially based on the rising cost of the position, but this is a great spot to be in for the next year.
For that investment, the Penguins have gotten the 12th best goals against average (2.93) and the seventh best save percentage (.910). Those numbers would be even better if not for the hiccups suffered by Murray earlier this year and have steadily been improving since Dec. 1.
To give some perspective, the Montreal Canadiens are paying the most to their goaltenders — $11.45 million per season – which is bloated by the $10.5 million that’s being paid to Cary Price and they currently rank 9th (2.96) in goals against average and 14th in save percentage (.906).
The Philadelphia Flyers are paying their goaltenders the least in the league ($2,192,083) mainly due to injuries and have some of the ugliest goaltending statistics. They have the fourth worst goals against average (3.55) and are tied for the worst save percentage (.883).
All of this means that the Penguins will be sitting pretty in net, while still being able to devote the majority of their salary cap space to other positions of need.
To see where all teams rank in terms of dollars, GAA and Save Percentage see the chart below.
|TEAM||TOTAL MONEY||GAA THIS SEASON||S% TEAM|
|New York Rangers||$9,292,500.00||3.41||0.898|
|New York Islanders||$4,833,333.00||2.56||0.918|
*Salary for 2019-20: Penguins – $5,270,000… Anaheim – $8,150,000
Penguins ship Grant to Ducks for Blandisi
The Penguins have played games well into the night during their west coast road trip and Rutherford ensured that his team would still be in the late night news during an off day. The veteran general manager sent center Derek Grant to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for forward Joseph Blandisi.
Blandisi, 24, has played the majority of this season with the San Diego Gulls of the American Hockey League. He had 23 points (8G-15A) and a plus-9 in 27 games with San Diego. In his final eight games with the Gulls, Blandisi recorded nine points (3G-6A). Blandisi was scoreless with six penalty minutes in three NHL games with the Ducks earlier this season.
A 5-foot-11, 187-pound native of Markham, Ontario, Blandisi has skated in 74 career NHL games with the Ducks and New Jersey Devils, recording eight goals and 26 points. The majority of his NHL production came with the Devils, where he originally broke into the NHL in 2015-16, scoring 17 points (5G-12A) in 41 games that year.
Blandisi skated on the Penguins fourth line alongside Matt Cullen and Garrett Wilson during practice on Thursday in Arizona and it is expected that he will play at least one NHL game with the team.
According to multiple reports, Rutherford made the deal because it offered roster flexibility. Grant has played infrequently over the past six weeks and would have had to clear waivers to be assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.