The Philadelphia Flyers could use some help at the backup goalie position. Though once an elite goalie with the St. Louis Blues, Brian Elliott has seen his numbers decline over his past three seasons in Philadelphia. This past season may have been one of his most disappointing yet, as he failed to achieve a .900 save percentage (SV%) for the first time in nine years.
Elliott will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. Though he had some good moments in Philadelphia, it might be time for the Flyers to move on from the 35-year-old. Fortunately, after today’s developments with the New York Islanders and Ilya Sorokin, the Flyers just might have found their replacement for Elliott.
Thomas Greiss, the Odd Man Out
Reports surfaced today that the Islanders are finally set to sign Ilya Sorokin after his contract with the KHL’s CSKA Moscow expires on April 30.
For those that do not know, Sorokin has been one of the best goalies over the past six seasons in the KHL. Last season, he recorded a remarkable 1.16 goals-against average (GAA) and a .940 SV%. He also has a plethora of international honors, including leading Russia to a gold medal at the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.
The Islanders drafted Sorokin in the third round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, but up until now, he has preferred to remain in the KHL. Finally, he appears to have changed his mind and is ready to come to the NHL.
If Sorokin does in fact sign with the Islanders, he will play a large role on the team next season. He will split time with country-mate Semyon Varlamov, who started 39 games for the Isles this season.
This does not bode well for backup goalie Thomas Greiss. Except for one dismal season in 2017-18, he has played well for the Islanders over the past five seasons. Nonetheless, with Sorokin set to join the Islanders and Varlamov signed for the next three seasons, Greiss is now the odd man out. As a pending unrestricted free agent, he will likely be playing for a new team next season.
Greiss Makes Sense for the Flyers
The Flyers will need a new backup goalie if they choose not to re-sign Elliott. While they have some intriguing goaltending prospects, the Flyers would be best-off bringing in an established veteran to serve as a backup and mentor to the still-developing Carter Hart.
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With 11 years of NHL experience, Greiss more than fits the bill. Over his long career, he has put up impressive numbers, including a career 2.63 GAA and a .915 SV%. He is only one season removed from recording a 2.28 GAA, a .927 SV% and five shutouts. Despite producing slightly worse numbers this season (2.74 GAA, .913 SV%, and no shutouts), he still played better than Elliott and would be an upgrade for the Flyers.
With expected players like Braden Holtby, Corey Crawford, Jimmy Howard, Robin Lehner and Jacob Markstrom, the goalie free agent market this off-season will be unusually strong. Regardless, Greiss makes more sense for the Flyers than those goalies because he is used to being a backup.
During his time with the Islanders, Greiss split time with or served as a backup to Jaroslav Halak, Lehner and Varlamov. Only in 2016-17, when Halak suffered a season-ending injury, did Greiss start most of his team’s games. Meanwhile, Holtby or Markstrom is used to being a starter and might be unwilling to accept a backup role to Hart. Even if they did, there is no telling how successfully they would transition to being a backup.
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Other strong backup goalies like Cam Talbot and Anton Khudobin could also be available this off-season; however, they are coming off impressive seasons and might come with a hefty price tag. On the other hand, Greiss saw his numbers decline ever so slightly from the season prior. Therefore, the 34-year-old might be available at a discount this off-season. If so, the Flyers should swoop him up.