New-look Penguins boost back end, re-sign Jarry, add Graves

The Pittsburgh Penguins made it known Saturday that goal prevention was a priority, re-signing goaltender Tristan Jarry and adding defenseman Ryan Graves.

Jarry got a five-year extension carrying a $5.375 million cap hit while Graves, who spent last season with the New Jersey Devils, signed a six-year deal that's worth $4.5 million annually.

The signings are the latest developments in what has become an aggressive offseason for the Penguins. It started with the team missing the playoffs for the first time in 16 years as it finished one point out of the final wild-card spot, captured by the eventual Eastern Conference champion Florida Panthers.

The sting of getting eliminated was compounded by the fact that franchise cornerstones Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin are all older than 35.

It also led to the Penguins firing president of hockey operations Brian Burke, general manager Ron Hextall and assistant general manager Chris Pryor in April. In June, the Penguins hired former Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas to serve as president of hockey operations and interim GM.

Dubas and his front office staff have been active. They took advantage of their cap space by offering the Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights financial flexibility in a trade that saw Pittsburgh get Reilly Smith.

Getting Smith ultimately signaled the Penguins would be in a position to move on from Jason Zucker, who signed a one-year contract with the Arizona Coyotes.

CapFriendly projected that Smith's arrival meant the Penguins had a little more than $15 million in space, which they then used to bring back Jarry while further addressing their defensive needs by adding Graves.

Jarry was in the final year of a three-year deal that saw him earn $3.5 million annually. The 28-year-old Jarry gives the Penguins a long-term option but there were questions concerning his durability and consistency last season with the team fighting for a playoff berth. A two-time All-Star, Jarry missed a month last season with an upper-body injury, and the Penguins struggled in his absence, going 4-5 over nine games.

He reached 20 wins with Pittsburgh for the fourth consecutive season and topped 40 appearances for the second straight.

Graves, who went from depth option to Cale Makar's defensive partner, became a salary cap casualty with the Colorado Avalanche. He was traded to the Devils before the start of the 2021-22 season, where he found a fit in a young but deep defensive group on the cusp of returning to the postseason for the first time since 2018.

The trade meant Graves missed out on Colorado's Stanley Cup season, but he improved his overall game with New Jersey, balancing a steady, sure skill set in his own zone with timely offense.

Another item that made Graves valuable to New Jersey was his three-year deal worth $3.1 million annually, which aided the Devils as they locked up their young, high-priced forwards with that additional cap room.

In his first season with the Devils, he finished with six goals and 28 points while occupying 20:43 time on the ice. The following season, he had matched that goal total by March and was a fixture on the second unit while New Jersey competed for the Metropolitan Division title with the Carolina Hurricanes.

What made the 2013 fourth-round pick an attractive name on the open market was his 6-foot-5, 220-pound build coupled with the fact he could be trusted in 5-on-5 play and was part of a Devils' penalty kill that was fourth with an 82.6% success rate.

Not long after the Jarry and Graves announcements, the Penguins finalized several depth moves. They struck a deal with Alex Nedeljkovic on a one-year contract worth $1.5 million to create a goaltending trio that also includes Casey DeSmith, who has one year left at $1.8 million.

They also signed Noel Acciari to a three-year contract while adding Matt Nieto on a two-year pact. Acciari had 14 goals and 23 points for his second strongest offensive season for with the St. Louis Blues and Maple Leafs. Nieto began last year with the San Jose Sharks before he was traded to the Avalanche, where he had a previous stint. The two-way, bottom-six forward finished with 12 goals and 24 points for his sixth season of more than 20 points.

Finally, the Penguins agreed to a deal with veteran forward Lars Eller, a two-year contract worth $2.45 million annually. Eller began last season with the Washington Capitals before he was traded to the Avalanche to aid them in their bid to repeat as Stanley Cup champions before they lost to the Seattle Kraken. Eller finished last season with 10 goals and 23 points for his 12th straight campaign topping 20.