What is going on with the Pittsburgh Penguins this season?
The last two weeks have finally shown some encouraging signs as the team has actually collected eight points out of a possible 12 in its past six games and is only six points out of first place in the Metropolitan Division, however the latest 6-3 loss at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche has reminded general manager Jim Rutherford that there is a big void on the back end since top defenseman Justin Schultz fell to injury at the start of the season.
During an appearance on Montreal’s TSN 690, NHL insider Darren Dreger discussed the state of the Penguins' goaltending and potential moves that need to be done for Pittsburgh to remain a top contender in the league.
With Matt Murray back on the injured reserve, the Penguins are trusting Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry, despite their lack of experience, but would surely prefer to have a strong blue line in front of them who could move the puck and push the offensive end as well. The Penguins are surely missing Schultz...
“Their goaltending has been inconsistent. Matt Murray was inconsistent when he was healthy. They look at Casey DeSmith, they look at Tristan Jarry, and they see future in those two goaltenders - certainly in Tristan Jarry. But is it a little too much too soon.
"Butman do they miss Justin Schultz. Years ago, it would have been unthinkable to say that about Justin Schultz when he was cast aside by the Edmonton Oilers and Pittsburgh snapped him up and won two Stanley Cups. But that type of puck-moving defenseman who can control the pace to some degree, they’re struggling without him.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rutherford and the Penguins try and acquire some form of puck-moving defenseman in the future, but it’s difficult to do.
“He said to me that he feels that this team has as good a chance as any Penguins team that he’s been associated with, and that’s saying a lot considering what they’ve managed to win since Rutherford was named GM.”
As for Murray, it has been revealed more and more often now that the Penguins could make the goaltender a trade commodity down the road when he’s healthy.
“DeSmith played against the Winnipeg Jets, I was at that game on Tuesday. I thought he was okay. He let in one bad goal, and he was off his angle on Mark Scheifele’s second, but I think that’s why that combination - in terms of Pittsburgh looking to the future - is why slowly and somewhat quietly we were starting to hear the mutterings of the possibility of speculation of Matt Murray perhaps being a trade commodity at some point down the road when he gets healthy again."
While Murray won two back to back Stanley Cups with the Penguins in 2016 and 2017, it seems like the goaltender cannot be trusted to lead the team there again in the near future.
The Pens might have some difficulty to sale Murray on the block as he has struggled this season and remains out of order on the sidelines. However, this is quite a message sent to Murray and the team if the Penguins and Rutherford truly feel this way.