San Jose Sharks: Could Thomas Greiss Be Key to Summer Trades?

MJ Kasprzak@BayAreaCheezhedSenior Writer IIJune 7, 2012

Thomas Greiss' ability to be a No. 1 goalie may dictate the summer's biggest trade
Thomas Greiss' ability to be a No. 1 goalie may dictate the summer's biggest tradeChristian Petersen/Getty Images

The San Jose Sharks have just 12 skaters (seven forwards) under contract for next season. However, they have both Antti Niemi and Thomas Greiss in net.

The other 13 players have been covered in my player report card series. (That link is to my latest in the series. Click the next one to compare him to Sharks starting goalie Niemi.)

Before you decide what to do with outside free agents, you need to know what to do with your own. Before deciding which players to re-sign, you need to make sure you are comfortable with the ones you know are available.

Entering the last year of a contract paying him less than $600,000, the 26-year-old Greiss has shown enough promise that it is fair to think he could be the next Braden Holtby. Teams (including San Jose) can be pretty sure he is a good backup and hope he can be more while spending very little on him.

But he also has never been so impressive as to think he is a future stopper. He has been the goalie of record for just 29 games in his NHL career. Those games are spread over parts of five seasons because he has had trouble sticking in the NHL.

Of course, the reason he was not around in 2010-11 is that the Sharks had two goalies they had signed to be their starters—Niemi and Antero Niittymaki.

The reality is that over the years before and after being entrenched in the backup back-stop position, Greiss is 16-11-2 with a 2.47 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. Last season, he was 9-7-1 with a 2.30 GAA and .915 save pct.

Those numbers are good enough to consider him a great low-cost roll of the dice for a significant role in net. Thus, with several teams interested in trades in the days between the Stanley Cup Finals and the NHL draft, a lot rides on what teams—the Sharks and their potential trading partners—think of Greiss.

The Sharks have already shown they are a willing trading partner, as they are trying to maintain contender status. Since the one position the Sharks are not lacking prospects for is in net, the team has flexibility to move an NHL goalie.

Based on what the team needs, it seems likely they will trade some of that abundance for skating talent. Most teams will not pay a heavy price for prospects who are not high picks and have not played a full game in the NHL.

That leaves Greiss and Nemo. Whether another team banks on Greiss or the Sharks do, that makes him a principle player in at least one move this summer.

Nemo's cap price is much heavier, but his resume is much fatter and he has more upside. He is under contract for longer, whereas Greiss would become an unrestricted free agent next season. Even though the Sharks would almost certainly be able to afford to keep him, he will want to start rather than be a backup.

Backup goalies are a dime a dozen (literally if you use dime to mean $10 million), and that makes him expendable. If no prospect is ready to make the leap, the Sharks can get one cheaply.

Then again, if the team decides he is good enough to take a chance on as the No. 1 goalie, the benefit of the extra space and/or return value of trading Nemo makes sense. If so, the Sharks would be wise to sign a veteran who has the chance of handling that role for all or part of the season in case Greiss stumbles.