Option #1: Casey DeSmith, Pittsburgh Penguins
To those who haven’t followed much of the NHL this season outside of the Panthers, there’s a reason Casey DeSmith is wearing the #1 in black and gold.
With usual starter Matt Murray struggling for form in the early weeks of the season, winding up going on IR with a lower-body injury, and usual backup Tristan Jarry underperforming again, the time came for DeSmith to emerge as a consistent starter.
This is a common theme for those in the Penguins organization, “next man up” has inspired a lot of players in the organization, from Matt Murray to Brian Dumoulin to Jake Guentzel. DeSmith has proven himself to coach Mike Sullivan and the rest of the organization.
DeSmith has started 20 of 35 Penguins games this year, which is 9 more than all of last season. He’s been, to put it lightly, very impressive, averaging 34.6 saves a game, a .926% save percentage, and a 2.42 goals allowed average.
He’s won 11 games for the Pens this season but saying that isn’t even scratching the surface. He’s had some incredible individual performances, including a 39-save shutout against the Arizona Coyotes in his first start in almost a month and a 48-save win over the Boston Bruins.
His best performance came in his most recent game, 40 saves in a 2-1 win at home against the Minnesota Wild.
DeSmith made multiple brilliant saves to help the Penguins rally from going down early. He showed his movement in the crease to deny the Wild on a 3-on-1 opportunity that was mis-hit by Jason Zucker but still denied from DeSmith after making an initial save off a giveaway.
His best save came in the second period while shorthanded to deny Wild captain Mikko Koivu:
This save is all-star quality. The first save is good enough, denying a sheer blast from the left side, but then to deny Koivu’s shot from a high-scoring position, after recovering from the first shot, shows DeSmith’s effort to make save after save after save.
Murray’s comeback will continue to complicate DeSmith’s play time, with Murray winning 2 of 3 starts back.
DeSmith has also been dealing with domestic violence allegations, which could be something that the Penguins may want to get off their table.
Despite all this, the Penguins are a smart organization, they know they have a solid backup goalie, and may not wish to move him.
The Penguins are a clear playoff contender, 3rd in the Metropolitan division, and need this kind of talent on Murray’s off-nights, but no Penguins player is untouchable. Here is a reasonable trade for both sides:
This trade may not look good for either side, but it’s mostly bent on needs. Mark Pysyk is a good defenseman on his day and has proven that in Panthers’ red, but, with both Jacob MacDonald and Bogdan Kiselevich looking good at the NHL level, whether Pysyk is a necessity anymore falls into question.
The Penguins need as much experience at the back as they can. While rookies Juuso Riikola and Marcus Pettersson have performed admirably with injuries to regulars Jamie Oleksiak and Justin Schultz, come playoff time, Pysyk would be a great fit as a disciplined, bottom-four pairing defenseman.
The Panthers get DeSmith alongside Riley Sheahan, a forward who hasn’t quite lived up to expectations this year and would even out the cap gained by Pittsburgh in acquiring Pysyk.
Florida also throw in a 3rd round pick for next year’s draft as a sweetener, as the Cats don’t have their 2nd or 3rd round picks this year.