The biggest question surrounding Pittsburgh Penguins goalkeeper Tristan Gary now becomes: When will he be allowed to answer the biggest question?
yes. One of those tests, inside a puzzle, wrapped in some kind of puzzle of things.
I mean, he’s proven twice as an above-average goalkeeper in the regular season, twice supporting his team in the playoffs while earning an All-Star nod from the Eastern Conference along the way.
But neither of those seasons ended with the Penguins fans or management confidently saying, “My neighbor is a really good goalkeeper too.”
Once upon a time because it wasn’t. Not even close. It was in 2021 after his season hit a wall during the first round Losing the Game Series to the New York Islanders.
The other time he was injured. It was this spring when Gary played only one game against the New York Rangers in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. A match lost by the Penguins 4-3 in overtime at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers.
Not a very fair test of post-season progress after the disaster of 2021.
Complicating matters further for the Penguins, Gary is entering his final year with a $3.5 million contract. The club could extend it early if they wanted to. And if he wanted to stay in Pittsburgh.
Does either party know if they want the marriage to continue? Do the Penguins want to associate themselves with Gary as their goalkeeper for the present – and the future – before they even know if they really trust him in the accessory position?
And does Gary want to associate himself with an organization that might not trust him after his first bad playoff?
The first thing to determine is whether the penguins are seriously rebuilding around the last three years of Sidney Crosby’s decade. Or will the organization keep Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang in free agency for this season and possibly into 2025 with Crosby before a real blast.
If General Manager Ron Hextal and President Brian Burke choose to take the second path, they shouldn’t move on Gary until after this year is over. Depending on what kind of production they get from Malkin and Letang in their new deals, they shouldn’t want to allocate any extra money in the future.
But if the front office is dealing with a rebuilding angle, I wouldn’t be surprised if he tries to work on an extension with my neighbor for a few more years past the end of 2023. Maybe in Brian Rust’s bargain mold, get it at a discount before the free agency bidding starts. Meanwhile, Gary receives security not to have to test the market after coming off a bad playoff if Bugaboo from the islanders shows up again.
Or getting into a free agency after a year of playing behind a rebuilding team might not be good enough to get there, depending on how long the rebuilding takes.
From a team perspective, I can’t help but see the Colorado Avalanche and think about my neighbor for a bit.
Avalanche won the Western Conference with a combination of Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz between the tubes. They’re about to play the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, and they still look like they’re figuring out which one is better.
Or it might be better to say worse.
I think Gary is better than both. He is five years (27) younger than these two men (32). His goals in the 2021-22 regular season versus the average (2.42) were better than both goals (2.54 for Comper, 2.55 for Francoz). Its savings ratio was (.919) between Kuemper (.921) and Francouz (.916).
Kuemper was Denver’s starting line-up, with 37 Best Western wins (119 points). Gary has racked up 34 wins for the club with the seventh highest total score in the East (103 points).
None of the Colorado goalkeepers deliver numbers as good as the pace of the regular season in the playoffs. However, the Avs are two wins away from the Stanley Cup.
Point being, many wonder, “Can the Penguins win the Stanley Cup with Tristan Gary at the net?”
My answer is, “If the Avs can win at least 14 playoff games with Darcy Comber or Pavel Francoz in goal, then yes.”
Now the penguins have to build themselves a team like Team Avalanche.
That’s it. Simple, isn’t it?
Of course, it is not. But this task would be easier to start with if the club freed up whatever amount it would cost Malkin and Letang against the salary cap for the next three years. This total was $16.7 million in 2021-22.
Honestly, as we head into the summer of 2017, some people might be asking, “How did the Penguins ever win two trophies with Matt Murray? What happened to that guy?”
Probably because the pens five and six years ago were what they are now at the 2022 Avs.
I bet my neighbor could be good enough for the penguins if they made themselves better.
Keeping Letang and Malkin not trying to get better. It’s a prayer that the team stays well. However, it wasn’t good enough to get out of the first round of playoffs in the past four seasons.
Only one of these results can be returned on the back of Gary.
On a hockey podcast on Wednesday, Tim Benz Radio Network host Brian Metzer discussed the Penguins’ looming decisions, the Stanley Cup Final and the hiring of John Tortorella in Philadelphia.
Tim Benz is a Tribune Review writer. You can contact Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. All tweets can be reposted. All emails are subject to posting unless otherwise stated.