Islanders: Thomas Greiss Era May Be Over

As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has basically halted society all around the world. Sadly, this resulted in a pause on major sports throughout North America. As a result, the NHL officially postponed their season and has not set a date for a return. Although there have been many rumors floated around about how the league plans to format the remainder of the 2019-20 season, there is still a good chance that the season will be canceled.

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If that were to become a reality, the New York Islanders would have a few questions to answer. On their main roster, they currently have eight players on expiring contracts. For now, let’s focus on their biggest upcoming unrestricted free agent, goaltender Thomas Greiss.

Greiss’ Current Contract

On Jan. 30, 2017, Greiss signed a three-year contract extension with the Islanders, which was worth $10 million in total. At the time, Greiss was a part of a goaltending tandem with Jaroslav Halak, who is now with the Boston Bruins. Greiss really showed the Islanders what he was worth during the 2015-16 playoffs. When their starter (Halak) went down with an injury, Greiss stepped up for the team and was a rock against the Florida Panthers in the first round.

Jaroslav Halak (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Greiss was re-signed while the team was fighting for a playoff spot. Obviously, he played his way into a comfortable contract. Even though they didn’t end up making the playoffs, the team knew that they needed him locked up because he was a reliable goalie that was loved by his teammates and fans. Also, they probably had a good idea that Halak, his goaltending partner, was going to leave the team after the season ended.

A Comparable Contract

In an effort to see if the Islanders got some good value out of Greiss throughout his contract, I found a goaltender that was signed to a similar contract. On July 1, 2018, Jonathan Bernier signed a three-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings, which was worth a total of $9 million. Although it was $1 million less than what Greiss was signed for, it is still very close.

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In his first two seasons with the Red Wings, Bernier had a .906 save percentage (SV%), 3.04 goals-against average (GAA), and a record of 24-40-8. As for Greiss, in his first two full seasons on this contract, he had a .920 SV%, 2.51 GAA, and a record of 39-23-6.

Jonathan Bernier Detroit Red Wings
Jonathan Bernier, Detroit Red Wings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Obviously, Greiss has better stats in each category. However, it’s important to note that the Red Wings have been one of, if not the worst team in the entire league the past few seasons. Considering how bad of a team they have, aside from his record, Bernier’s stats aren’t too bad. Regardless of the fact that there’s still one more season left on Bernier’s contract, it’s clear that throughout Greiss’ contract, he provided more value than Bernier has.

Greiss’ 2018-19 Season

Following the departure of Halak and the addition of fan-favorite goaltender Robin Lehner, Greiss found himself in the middle of another solid goaltending duo. However, this time Greiss was a part of a duo that was something special. After head coach Barry Trotz, goaltending director Mitch Korn, and goaltending coach Piero Gerco solidified the Islanders’ defense and goaltending, Greiss and Lehner were able to put up special numbers during the entire 2018-19 season.

Robin Lehner, New York Islanders
Robin Lehner, New York Islanders, Oct. 27, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Although Lehner stole the show for most of the season, Greiss was not forgotten by Islanders fans. Greiss held up his end of the bargain the entire season, he even set career highs for save percentage (.927) and goals-against average (2.28). Along with Lehner, Greiss helped restore the Islanders fans’ faith in their team’s goaltending. For their accomplishments, the Islanders’ goalies won the William M. Jennings award, which is awarded to the team that allows the least amount of goals in a season.

Clearly, the 2018-19 season will never be forgotten by Greiss.

Re-Signing Greiss Would Not Be Smart

Although he has played very well for the Islanders during his five years with the club, it just wouldn’t make sense for Greiss to be re-signed. To many fans’ disappointment, the Islanders decided to sign veteran goaltender Semyon Varlamov to a four-year contract on July 1, 2019. Although he’s a solid goalie, it meant that fan-favorite Lehner was not being brought back to the team. The decision to sign Varlamov was affected by the Islanders’ goaltending prospect Ilya Sorokin. Although Sorokin has spent his entire professional hockey career in the KHL, he was drafted by the Islanders in 2014.

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If Sorokin were to ever come to the NHL, he would be playing for the Islanders. Given the fact that he’s known as the best goalie in the world that isn’t currently in the NHL, it’s not a surprise that Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello will do everything that he can to get Sorokin to come to Long Island. That is why he signed Sorokin’s close friend, Varlamov, to a long-term deal.

The Islanders are planning for a 2020-21 goaltending duo of Varlamov and Sorokin. So, unless Sorokin decides that he doesn’t want to come to the NHL, or he requests a trade from the Islanders, it looks like Greiss will have to find a new home next season.