Penguins bring back goalie Jarry on a five-year deal, lure defenseman Graves away from New Jersey

FILE - Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry protects his net during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Islanders, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022, in Elmont, N.Y. The Pittsburgh Penguins decided to bring back two-time All-Star goaltender Tristan Jarry, signing him Saturday, July 1, 2023 to a $26.875 million, 5-year deal with a $5.375 million annual cap hit through 2028.(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

New Pittsburgh Penguins president of hockey operation Kyle Dubas made it a point to travel to Edmonton recently to meet with two-time All-Star goaltender Tristan Jarry.

Dubas walked into the sit-down with an open mind. He walked out of it convinced Jarry remains Pittsburgh's best option in net in the present and — seemingly — the future, too.

Jarry agreed to a five-year contract to stay with the Penguins on Saturday rather than head elsewhere in free agency. The deal carries an average annual value of $5.375 million and the term signals a significant investment by Dubas in a player who can mix stretches of brilliance with bouts of inconsistency.

The 28-year-old Jarry made the All-Star team in 2020 and 2022, but has yet to help the Penguins get beyond the first round of the playoffs. He was the main reason Pittsburgh failed to beat the New York Islanders in 2021 and sat out most of a loss to the New York Rangers in 2022 with an injury. The Penguins didn't even make the playoffs this spring, thanks in part to ineffective play by Jarry down the stretch. He went just 8-8-2 with a .890 save percentage over his final 20 appearances as the Penguins missed the postseason for the first time since 2006.

Dubas pointed to a somewhat underwhelming marketplace for goaltenders and the coaching staff's belief in Jarry as two contributing factors in making such a long-term commitment to a player still unproven in the crucible of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“He would be the first to tell you he wants to be better and his sample shows he’s capable of being better,” Dubas said. “The view of the people in the facility and in the room and myself getting to know Tristan, that is what made me comfortable (going) down that path.”

The Penguins lured defenseman Ryan Graves away from Metropolitan Division rival New Jersey to help a blue line that was largely ineffectual last season. Graves agreed to a six-year deal that carries an average value of $4.5 million. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Graves gives the Penguins a needed physical presence in front of their own net.

“I think Ryan obviously brings a lot of size to the group, but more importantly he’s been very effective in playing against very tough competition,” Dubas said.

Dubas added the club remains committed to veteran defenseman Jeff Petry, who had a somewhat disappointing season with the Penguins after arriving in a trade with Montreal last summer. Dubas said the club believes Petry, who had five goals and 21 assists in 61 games last year, still has “a good amount of fuel left in the tank.”

Pittsburgh bolstered its depth in its bottom six by signing veteran forward Lars Eller to a two-year deal. The 34-year-old Eller won a Stanley Cup with Washington in 2018 and remains an effective two-way player. Dubas called signing Eller “key” for a team overly reliant on getting offensive production out of the top two lines anchored by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

The Penguins also signed forwards Noel Acciari (three years) and Matt Nieto (two years) and goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic (one year), part of an active stretch for Dubas in his new role. Dubas acquired forward Reilly Smith from Vegas for a 2024 third-round pick earlier in the week.

Dubas will continue to explore options to add depth but believes the big moves are out of the way. Tasked with trying to maximize the Stanley Cup window for Crosby and Malkin while also planning for the long-term future, Dubas has brought on a slew of experienced players — Graves is the only impactful newcomer in his 20s — while betting Jarry will eventually get shine in the playoffs.


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