The New York Islanders confused many at the beginning of the season with their decision to keep three goaltenders on their active roster to start the season.
Jaroslav Halak was supposed to be the answer in net, as the Islanders signed him two years prior as a free agent. Thomas Greiss was brought in to be the backup, despite showing borderline-starter like numbers.
Jean-Francois Berube was the wildcard. New York claimed the 25-year old off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings on December 15, 2015. Not wanted to lose him to waivers at the start of the season, the Islanders kept all three, creating quite the mess in the process as well.
Things didn’t work out for Halak, as he was placed on waivers on December 30, and when no one claimed him was assigned to the Islanders American Hockey League affiliate in Bridgeport.
That left Greiss as the undisputed number one goalie on the team, and with the team’s recent hot streak they decided to reward him.
After bouncing around most of his career, Greiss knows for sure that the Islanders will be the team he plays for over the foreseeable future, as the two sides came to terms on a new three-year extension. The new deal will pay him $10 million over the three years, for an average annual salary (AAV) of $3.33.
The contract puts him on about the same pay scale as some of the other starting goalies in the league, most of which are either veteran on maybe their last big paycheck or just starting out as the go-to guy.
This shouldn’t come as to a surprise for the now 31-year old Greiss. Despite mostly serving as a backup, he has actually been one of the consistently better goalies in the entire league for the last couple of seasons.
Greiss was drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the third round, 94th overall, in the 2004 NHL draft out of Germany. He would spend the next two years overseas before finally coming to North America and play for the Worcester Sharks in the AHL.
Overall, Greiss was the tenth goalie taken in the draft.
Playing behind Antti Niemi, Greiss was never able to see much playing time as the backup. He maxed out at 19 games at the NHL level while playing for the Sharks.
The following season, the lockout shortened year, Greiss only played in six games and appeared to have lost his place as the backup to Alex Stalock. Eventually, as a free agent, he signed with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Slight Breakout, and a Stepback
Now a free agent for the first time, Greiss signed with the Coyotes and saw a breakout season with more of an opportunity than any of his years with the Sharks.
Playing in 25 games, Greiss posted a .920 save percentage along with 2.29 goals against average, both of which was a career high. Some even talked about him as a possible starting candidate when he hit the open market again. The Coyotes had Mike Smith signed under contract long-term, and they decided to look elsewhere for a backup goalie.
Despite some thinking, Greiss might have been able to sign somewhere that he could get even more playing time than he did with the Coyotes, he landed in Pittsburgh, who had Marc-Andre Fleury as a bona fide number one goalie.
The fit wasn’t there for Greiss and the Penguins, as he saw his games played decrease, and numbers inflate. With only a .908 SV% and 2.59 GAA, it was a step back from a player who many had expected more from at the age where it was expected for him to do so.
Only being a one-year deal, Greiss was once again on the move. Just a year after signing Halak, the Islanders dipped into the free agent pool and signed Greiss to a two-year deal.
Emergence To Underrated Value
Greiss arrived in Brooklyn the projected backup to Halak, but that has been far from the case from day one. He has pushed Halak from the get-go, eventually all the way out the door and into the minors.
Finally, with an opportunity to compete for time, Greiss played in 41 games last year, posting a better save percentage than when he was with the Coyotes.
Over the last two seasons, while playing at even strength, Greiss has actually been one of the most consistently good goalies in that stretch.
Of all goalies that have played at least 2,500 minutes at 5v5, according to Corsica.Hockey, Greiss has posted the fourth best SV% at .937. His medium danger save percentage (MDSV%) is the best among the group, and his HDSV% (high danger), GSAA, and GA/60 are all in the top ten in the time frame.
He has done all of this while facing the fifth most shots per 60 minutes.
It isn’t a contract that is going to stick out when you first see it, but with the Islanders struggles in the past with finding consistent play in net, everything that Greiss has done suggest that the search is finally over.
The Islanders are an intriguing team to watch in the second half, they are right in the playoff picture and have up to three games in hand on some of the teams they are competing with. With points in all five games since Doug Weight has taken control behind the bench, Greiss is going to be a big part of how the season goes from this point out.