There could be a new backup goalie in Pittsburgh next season, though it’s still a bit early to rule out Thomas Greiss’ return.
“We’ve spoken and neither side has closed the door but we’re not actively negotiating at this time either,” Greiss’ agent, Ray Petkau, told PHT via email on Monday. “We’ll speak again before July 1st.”
Greiss, 29, arrived in Pittsburgh last summer with a fair bit of intrigue. After going 10-8-5 with a .920 save percentage as Mike Smith’s No. 2 in Arizona, some thought Greiss could be in the mix for the Pens’ starting gig, given 1) Marc-Andre Fleury was going into the last year of his deal, and 2) the organization was in the midst of a overhaul, having already fired head coach Dan Bylsma and GM Ray Shero.
The push never seemed to materialize, though.
Fleury signed a four-year, $23 million extension just one month into the season and proceeded to carry a big workload, finishing tied for seventh in the league with 64 starts. Griess, meanwhile, started just 18 times (9-6-3, 2.59 GAA, .908 save percentage), got the mumps and played just a handful of times down the stretch.
It’ll be interesting to see what Pittsburgh does in goal behind Fleury next year. Matt Murray, the 21-year-old prospect that racked up a bunch of AHL awards this season (including rookie of the year and top goalie) could be promoted, though the organization’s developmental strategy probably calls for Murray playing a bunch of games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, rather than sitting behind Fleury.
That means Jeff Zatkoff, who split time with Murray in the American League last year, could end up being the guy. He’s under contract for one more year and has experience as Fleury’s backup, a role he filled during the 2013-14 campaign, when he played 20 games.
As for Greiss, he could test free agent waters for the second summer in a row, in a goalie market that’ll likely feature Antti Niemi, Karri Ramo and Michal Neuvirth, among others.