The Pittsburgh Penguins may have some tough choices on the horizon.
The big move of the summer for Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford and his organization was obviously the deal that sent star forward Phil Kessel to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Coyotes forward Alex Galchenyuk. There were some other pieces attached to the deal but those were obviously the 2 key players in the exchange, and no doubt it will be a move that will impact the Penguins for a long time moving forward. That being said though it may not be the only move made this summer that could have long term ramifications for the Penguins organization.
Earlier this summer the Tampa Bay Lightning announced that they had signed veteran goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy to a long term contract that made him one of the richest goaltenders in the entire National Hockey League. Vasilevskiy received a deal that will see him earn an average annual value of $9.5 million per season over the maximum possible term of 8 years. The move puts him behind only former Vezina Trophy winners Carey Price and Sergei Bobrovsky, both of who were awarded contracts that will pay them an average annual value of over $10 million per season.
So you might be asking why a signing from the Lightning would have long term ramifications for the Penguins? Well the answer is a simple one, the Penguins have a star goaltender of their own on the roster in the form of Matt Murray and although he is under contract for the 2019 - 2020 National Hockey League regular season, he will become a restricted free agent at the end of that season. It is not hard to see how Murray's agent would use all 3 of those deals as comparables to negotiate a new deal for his client, a new deal that would cost the Penguins a massive chunk of cap space that they simply do not have available to them at the moment.
Now it is true that Murray had a down year during the 2017 - 2018 NHL season, something that can not be said about the aforementioned Vasilevskiy, but he bounced back in very strong form at the end of the 2018 - 2019 season to finish with a very respectable .919 save percentage. It's not hard to envision a world in which Murray maintains his previous level of form this season, and a save percentage over .920 or even .925 this year could result in him commanding a massive salary at the end of the season. Now it's true that in terms of consistency Vasilevskiy has shown better form than Murray, but Murray also has 2 things that none of the goalies I have mentioned here has, a pair of Stanley Cup Championship rings.
It's easy to forget how former Penguins star Marc-Andre Fleury was relegated to a backup role as Murray led the charge to both Stanley Cup Championships, but you can rest assured neither Murray nor his management team will forget it when it comes time to sit down and negotiate a new deal with Rutherford and the Penguins.
Photo Credit: Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch