Jan 7, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Phoenix Coyotes goalie Thomas Greiss (1) prepares to make a save during the first period against the Calgary Flames at Jobing.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas Greiss A Low-Key Addition For The Pittsburgh Penguins

After opting to not re-sign Tomas Vokoun in free agency, the Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t need to, considering they had both Marc-Andre Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff under contract.

However, general manager Jim Rutherford paid no mind to the current rostered goalies, and paid Thomas Greiss to join his new club.

Signed to a one-year deal, Greiss has sort of taken a backseat to the other additions/subtractions. People, obviously, centered their attention to the pieces brought back in the James Neal trade, the one-year, $4 million signing of Christian Ehrhoff, and the losses of both Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik to Washington.

Yes, those were the big headlines as far as front office decisions – with exception to the firings of Dan Bylsma and Ray Shero – but Greiss could ultimately become their most underrated, under the radar move made this summer.

Greiss has been in the league for five seasons – all in the Western Conference (San Jose, Phoenix). Given how much more tenaciously resilient the Western Conference is to the Eastern, Greiss’ effectiveness could increase twofold with Pittsburgh. Of course, the Eastern Conference still has prominent, powerhouse offenses, and Greiss’ work is still cut out for him, but his experience in the west certainly boosts his resumé.

Seeing more game-action last season than in his whole career, Greiss started 25 games for the Coyotes, in which he posted career-highs in wins (10), goals-against-average (2.29), save percentage (.920), and shutouts (2). When you analyze it, those numbers are pretty remarkable, considering their career-best marks, and you figure with more games, the harder it is to register quality stats. Not to mention being a backup.

Standing at 6-foot-1 and weighing 215-pounds, Greiss is just your average framed goaltender, so there’s nothing really special in terms of his size, but he plays bigger. In watching him perform last season, he really displayed an efficient poise, and a knack for simply getting the job done. While the 28-year-old doesn’t get paid the big bucks, if Greiss can in any way replicate his 2013-14 efforts, and just play his game, Rutherford’s got himself a find.

Now, of course, we can’t automatically assume Greiss will serve as the counterpart to Fleury, because he’ll most likely have a camp battle with Jeff Zatkoff. But due to Greiss’ contract length and salary, it seems to be a predetermined result that he’ll claim backup duties. Which is unfortunate for Zatkoff, given he signed a two-year extension during the season, and finally was able to get his shot in the bigs after years in the minors. You certainly feel for the guy if he winds up in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

But this is about putting the best players out there. Even though Zatkoff can definitely build off of last season – and there were highlight performances like his shutout against the Los Angeles Kings – Greiss is the better goalie. Period.

Alas, I’ll reserve all judgement until I witness the Greiss show; however, in comparing the two netminders, Greiss’ experience, and ascending quality starts, triumph what Zatkoff’s accomplished.

Greiss could be a byproduct of what Vokoun was. And if that’s the case, the Pens have themselves a serviceable backup.

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