Penguins Predictions: Will Matt Murray break the bank with his next contract? | TribLIVE.com
Penguins/NHL

Penguins Predictions: Will Matt Murray break the bank with his next contract?

Jonathan Bombulie
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins goaltender Matt Murray makes a save on the Predators’ Viktor Arvidsson on a break away in the third period March 29, 2019 at PPG Paints Arena.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have had their fair share of trouble fitting under the salary cap the last few seasons. None of those woes can be pinned on the team’s goaltenders.

Starter Matt Murray makes $3.75 million per season. Backup Casey DeSmith’s salary is $1.25 million. Add them up and that’s half of what the Florida Panthers paid free agent Sergei Bobrovsky on July 1.

The days of cheap goaltending, however, are about to come to an end.

Murray is entering the final year of his contract. He’ll be a restricted free agent next summer, so there’s no real sense of urgency to get a deal done, but sometime in the next 12 months, he’ll be in line for a massive raise.

To get an idea of how much of a raise, take a look at three goalies who have signed long-term deals over the past two summers.

Last month, Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy broke the bank with an eight-year extension that pays him $9.5 million annually.

Last year, Whitehall’s John Gibson signed a six-year extension with Anaheim worth $6.4 million per season and Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck agreed to a six-year deal with an average annual salary of $6.167 million.

The boundaries for Murray’s new contract have essentially been set, with Vasilevskiy at the top end and Hellebuyck at the bottom.

Days after last season ended, Murray said he had not yet given much thought to his next contract. General manager Jim Rutherford has preached patience as well.

That’s fine, but someday soon, both sides are going to have to sit down and work out a deal. Murray is the team’s goaltender of the future. There’s no doubt about that. It’s just a matter of how many zeroes will be on his paycheck.

THE QUESTION

What will Matt Murray’s next contract look like?

MULTIPLE CHOICE

A. Close to Vasilevskiy’s $9.5 million salary

Murray’s career numbers aren’t quite as good as Vasilevskiy’s. Murray has a 2.62 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. Vasilevskiy has a 2.46 and a .919. But Murray has one thing his Lightning counterpart does not have. Two things, in fact. The Stanley Cup rings he won in 2016-17 while he was still technically considered a rookie. Murray paid off for the franchise in a big way with multiple clutch performances during those playoff runs. Now it’s time for the franchise to pay him a salary comparable to the top goalies in the game, no matter what it does to the team’s salary cap structure.

B. Close to Hellebuyck’s $6.167 million salary

The biggest strike against Murray in the race to join the ranks of the NHL’s highest-paid goalies is durability. He’s had a long injury history, including a bout with concussion-related issues. As great as his playoff runs were, he needed significant help from Marc-Andre Fleury in 2017 as he sat out with an injury. Murray’s lack of durability has also prevented him from having one truly huge season. Vasilevskiy went 39-10-4 with a .925 save percentage to win the Vezina trophy last year. Murray came close in 2016-17, but he doesn’t quite have a season on his resume that can match that.

C. Close to the midpoint between the two

Statistically speaking, Murray’s career numbers are almost exactly halfway between Vasilevskiy’s and Hellebuyck’s. It would make a whole lot of sense if his contract was a perfect compromise between them, too. Think something in the $8 million range.

THE PREDICTION

A. Close to Vasilevskiy’s $9.5 million salary

The lucrative long-term contracts handed out to Vasilevskiy and Bobrovsky this summer look more like a paradigm shift than an anomaly. For whatever reason, although it flies in the face of a lot of analytics, it looks like teams are about to start paying their goaltenders more. Murray’s timing is excellent in that regard.

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Penguins
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