After the Detroit Red Wings endured plenty of goaltending issues this past season, general manager Steve Yzerman and his staff explored the free-agent market in hopes of locating a reliable netminder.
Among a flurry of moves made over the weekend, the club announced they had signed goalie Thomas Greiss to a two-year, $7.2 million contract that’ll pay him $3.6 million per season.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) October 10, 2020
Considering Detroit allowed a league-worst 3.73 goals per game in 2019-20, it was clear they needed to make a change between the pipes this offseason, as the club parted ways with veteran Jimmy Howard following a 14-season partnership. Since this year’s free-agent class featured a ton of talented backstops, this seemed like the perfect time to make an upgrade at the goaltending position.
While there was very little chance the Red Wings would acquire one of the top netminders available, adding Greiss still fills one of their biggest needs and it helps them buy a little more time until their top young goaltenders are ready to make the leap into the NHL. Adding to this, the 34-year old has been one of the league’s better performers since the 2015-16 campaign.
Since joining the New York Islanders in 2015-16, the former third-round pick has appeared in 193 games (26th-most among all qualified goalies), producing a 2.70 goals-against average (tied for 19th-lowest), .915 save percentage (tied for ninth-highest), 10 shutouts (tied for 14th-most), along with a trio of assists (tied for ninth-most), according to NHL.com.
In particular, Greiss was able to produce a second consecutive quality performance in 2019-20, which undoubtedly caught the attention of Detroit’s front office. Despite occupying the backup role to goalie Semyon Varlamov, the veteran goaltender arguably outperformed his counterpart at times, as he allowed two goals or fewer in eight of his first nine games of the season.
Through 31 games, the experienced backstop made 28 starts and performed to a 16-9-4 record, creating a 2.74 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage.
Along with his impressive results during the regular season, Greiss has also proven to be quite effective in the playoffs over the last five campaigns. Even though he hasn’t reached beyond the second round in his career, the 2018-19 William Jennings award winner still possesses plenty of postseason experience, which could prove to be very extremely valuable to Detroit’s young squad.
Over his 16 career playoff games with the Islanders, the 6-foot-2 netminder made 14 starts, recording a 2.41 goals-against average, .921 save percentage, along with one shutout that came during the team’s Game 7 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in this year’s postseason.
Despite entering his age-35 season in 2021, Greiss is still capable of helping the Red Wings kill penalties next season, which is an area where they struggled mightily in 2019. Since the team generated the lowest penalty killing percentage (74.3%) and the fewest shorthanded net goals per game (-0.76) this past season, it’ll be crucial to improve both those metrics during the 2020-21 campaign.
In 2018, the German native faced 32 shots while his team was shorthanded, allowing just a single goal and producing a .969 save percentage. Carrying his productive results into this past season, the left-handed catching goaltender faced 14 shots while on the penalty kill, allowing just one goal and creating a .929 save percentage.
Now paired with teammate Jonathan Bernier – who produced a 2.95 goals-against average, .907 save percentage, and one shutout through 46 games in 2019-20 – Greiss is expected to compete for the starting role once training camp opens this winter. That said, there’s a very good chance the Red Wings will look to equally distribute playing time next season, which means the former Islander will likely match his number of games played from the 2018 campaign (43).
With Bernier’s current contract set to expire after the 2020-21 campaign, there’s a solid chance Greiss will be counted on to serve as a leader to the team’s top young goaltenders over the next two seasons. After that point, prospects Filip Larsson and Victor Brattstrom will likely receive an opportunity to battle for the starting gig in 2022-23 season.