Michal Neuvirth is out, and Thomas Greiss is in.
That’s the move Isles GM Garth Snow pulled off to open free agency on Wednesday, signing former Pittsburgh goalie Thomas Greiss to a two-year, $3 million deal (per Newsday).
Griess had a somewhat forgettable stint with the Penguins last season, largely due to Marc-Andre Fleury carrying such a heavy workload. The 29-year-old 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.
That said, player agent Rey Petkau said Greiss was interested in returning to Pittsburgh.
“We’ve spoken and neither side has closed the door,” he explained in late May. “But we’re not actively negotiating at this time either.”
At $1.5 million per season, Greiss is an affordable and seasoned backup to Jaroslav Halak. He has 89 games of NHL experience under his belt and will look to replicate the success he had as Mike Smith’s backup in Arizona two years ago, when he went 10-8-5 with a .920 save percentage.
In another move today, the Isles also confirmed what we posted yesterday — a new three-year deal for Thomas Hickey. It’s a $6.6 million pact, with an average annual cap hit of $2.2M.
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford says the big news of this week — that owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle are exploring a possible sale — won’t affect how the club works free agency.
“Nothing changes as far as how we run hockey operations,” Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We have a great city to play in and the best facilities of anyone in the league with the opening of our new practice facility.
“That should be very appealing to a free agent.”
Just prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, TSN broke news that Lemieux and Burkle hired Morgan Stanley “to explore the possibility of selling some or all of the NHL franchise.”
Shortly thereafter, the Pens released a statement:
“We conduct periodic reviews of our business and, because we have received several inquiries about the franchise in recent years, we decided to engage Morgan Stanley for their insight and counsel.
“After buying the team out of bankruptcy, ensuring its long-term future in Pittsburgh and creating a strong foundation for continued success, we believe it is time to explore our options.”
Before the club can begin exploring free agents, it needs to reach decisions on the eight players set to become UFAs: Daniel Winnik, Maxim Lapierre, Steve Downie, Blake Comeau, Paul Martin, Thomas Greiss, Christian Ehrhoff and Craig Adams. One decision has already been made — Adams has been told he won’t be brought back — and Ehrhoff’s agent recently suggested his client will go to July 1.
The club also needs a new deal for RFA forward Beau Bennett, and RFA d-men Ian Cole and Brian Dumoulin.
In the wake of signing Andrew Hammond to a three-year deal — creating a three-headed goalie monster in the process — Ottawa GM Bryan Murray acknowledged on Monday that he’s already fielding calls for Robin Lehner and Craig Anderson.
“Five or six teams have called and there has been some discussion and there will continue to be,” Murray said, per the Ottawa Sun. “We’ll see what comes of it.”
Technically speaking, Ottawa has a four-headed goalie monster, having signed Boston University standout Matt O’Connor earlier this month, though O’Connor is expected to spend next season in AHL Binghamton. Regardless, Murray still needs to figure out what to do with Anderson, 33, who’s signed through 2018 at $4.2 million per and Lehner, 23, who has two more years left at $2.25M per.
It’s no surprise Murray’s already working the phones. This summer’s goalie market could have plenty of NHL-caliber netminders available with the likes of Antti Niemi, Karri Ramo, Michal Neuvirth and Thomas Greiss all possibly going unrestricted. The trade market could be flush as well; Vancouver has floated the idea of flipping Eddie Lack and there appears to be interest in Kings backup Martin Jones.