The Islanders problems have already been well documented (I even just wrote about it here), but one of the true bright spots on the team is the goaltending, specifically, goaltender Thomas Greiss.
He may not be getting a ton of attention but Greiss is once again putting up an excellent season and has been fantastic for the Islanders since joining the club on July 1st, 2015.
Even though Greiss’s current contract runs up at the end of the year, the Islanders rewarded him with a brand new extension. Good for a total of $10 million over the next three years, Greiss will see a big pay raise and rightfully so.
However, while benefitting Greiss too, the Islanders are the real winners in the deal. With its short term and very low cap hit, the Islanders get a bargain for a quality, under-rated goalie.
Greiss has quickly emerged as the Islanders number one goalie mostly because of his stellar play. Before coming to New York, Greiss was never thought of as a number one starter. Playing for three different teams in his previous three seasons, he only had a career .913 save percentage through 89 games.
However, the potential was there as in the 2013-14 season with the Coyotes, Greiss maintained a .920 save percentage over 25 games. The Islanders decided to take a chance on the netminder and since then, Greiss has been nothing short of amazing.
Last year (his first season with the Islanders), Greiss registered a .925 save percentage over 41 games, good for fifth in the entire league. And when counting only goalies who played at least 15 games, Greiss moves up to third, just behind Brian Elliot and Ben Bishop.
Considering that last year was Greiss’s first season with a save percentage over .920, there were skeptics to see if he would be able to sustain such a high level of play. Yet Greiss has actually improved his numbers this season, seeing his save percentage climb to .928. Once again Greiss is in the top-five for save percentages and over the past two seasons, he actually has the best save percentage in the entire NHL, better than big names like Carey Price and Braden Holtby.
Cheap Cap Hit
If it’s not enough that Greiss has been arguably one of the best goalies over the last two seasons, his new cap hit is equally as beneficial to the Islanders.
Despite posting some of the best save percentage numbers in the NHL, Greiss will only be making $3.33 million a year. With the 29th highest cap hit amongst all goalies, Greiss will be making about the same amount as Cam Ward and will earn less than James Reimer and Ondrej Pavelec.
Most starting goalies carry a cap hit of at least $5 million and the other top goalies in the league usually make much more. Sergei Bobrovsky has a save percentage .001 points higher than Greiss this season yet carries a cap hit of $7.425 million. Braden Holtby has a $6.1 million cap hit but his save percentage is only .002 points higher than Greiss’s.
Most of the reasoning behind why the Islanders could sign Greiss to such a cheap extension is because he still holds a reputation of being a relatively unproven goalie (despite having .920 save percentages in three of his last four seasons).
A similar situation transpired with Devan Dubnyk and the Minnesota Wild, where Dubnyk was coming off an amazing season with the Wild but he had a few shaky years before joining the team. Settling on a $4.33 million AAV, the Wild got a relatively lower cap hit since Dubnyk was similarly “unproven”. But in this case, the Wild were forced to give plenty of term, handing Dubnyk a six-year contract.
With Greiss’s new extension, he will only be under contract with the Islanders for the next two seasons. This works out great for the club since there’s very little risk in the extension. If these past two seasons in New York were to be flukes and Greiss severely regresses over the next two years, Greiss’s contract will run up and the Islanders can let him go. The Islanders don’t have to make any sort of long-term commitment and don’t need to take the risk of being burdened with a bad contract.
Greiss is one of the most underrated goalies in the league and the Islanders are smart to lock him up for a few more years. However, they get even more value out of his very low cap hit and will get a ton of value out of the extension.