It’s now or never for Tristan Jarry with the Penguins
In 2013, Tristan Jarry was the future.
Now? His future is anyone’s guess.
When the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted Jarry, former general manager Ray Shero dealt forward Tyler Kennedy, a member of the franchise’s 2009 Stanley Cup championship team to the Sharks in exchange for the 50th overall pick. That pick was then moved to the Blue Jackets for the No. 44 pick, which was used on Jarry.
With long-time starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury approaching his 30s, the Penguins had to start looking at the future in net.
They thought it was Jarry. It ended up being Matt Murray.
Murray shot up the organization’s depth chart and eventually supplanted Fleury as the franchise’s goaltender by backstopping the team to back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 2016 and ‘17.
And while there are plenty of concerns about Murray as it relates to health and consistency, no one of consequence is questioning his status as the Penguins’ No. 1 goaltender.
But Jarry? That’s a bit more complicated.
First, the organization’s depth at the position is ample. Behind Murray, Casey DeSmith seemingly has established himself as the No. 2 goaltender. The trust coach Mike Sullivan and, perhaps most importantly, goaltending coach Mike Buckley have placed in DeSmith is clear. Last season, Sullivan and Buckley weren’t afraid to go start DeSmith over Murray when the latter struggled.
Management wasn’t hesitant to trust DeSmith — who joined the organization in 2015 on an ECHL contract with the Wheeling Nailers — and signed him to a three-year contract extension with a cap hit of $1.25 million, which begins this season.
Sullivan professed willingness to give DeSmith and Jarry equal opportunity to claim the No. 2 job this preseason.
“Obviously, they have a significant body of work with the Penguins,” Sullivan said. “We’re all very, very familiar with their respective games. This is an important training camp for those guys. It’s a competitive league. We have a competitive roster. That healthy competition at all the positions pushes all of (them) to be at their best, those two guys in particular. The exhibition games will be a great opportunity for both of them.”
Beyond the NHL roster, the AHL depth chart also is a bit crowded.
Emil Larmi, a 22-year-old undrafted free agent who led his team in Finland (HPK) to the championship of that country’s top league (the Liiga) is in his first NHL training camp. Additionally, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins signed Dustin Tokarski, a 29-year-old veteran who has played with the Lightning, Ducks and Canadiens during his career, to an AHL contract.
It’s difficult to see either of those players spending significant time with Wheeling.
But the most important component to Jarry’s future is his contract, which has a year remaining with a cap hit of $675,000. If the Penguins wanted to assign Jarry back to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he would need to clear waivers before the start of the season.
Regardless of the circumstances, Jarry’s focus is clear.
“My goal is to be in the Pittsburgh organization,” he said. “That’s been my goal since Day 1. That will be my goal going forward as well.”
Still, he realizes he could be suiting up for another organization when the regular season starts in October.
The Penguins are believed to have sought a trade for Jarry this offseason, but any potential deals did not yield satisfactory return. General manager Jim Rutherford might explore that option again if only to get something in return, even if its only a late-round draft pick, instead of losing Jarry for nothing through waivers.
“It’s something I can’t really control,” said Jarry. “It’s not my choice. It’s (management’s) choice. Whatever they decide to do and whatever happens, it happens.”
Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .