Pens sign Comeau, Greiss… lose Orpik, Jokinen and Vitale

By Brian Metzer

The Penguins are setting them up and knocking them down on the opening day of free agency. They follow up the signing of Christian Ehrhoff by bringing a gritty bottom six winger in Blake Comeau and goaltender Thomas Greiss.

Comeau signed a one-year, $700,000 dollar deal, while Greiss gets one-year, $1 million on his. Both are nice depth signings.

Greiss far surpassed Jeff Zatkoff in terms of ability and could really push Marc-Andre Fleury as he is just entering his prime at 28-years-old. He posted a 10-8-5 record, 2.29 goals against and a .920 save percentage last season in Arizona. He has a lifetime goals against average of 2.43 and a save percentage of .915. His three career shutouts all came over the past two seasons and he has steadily improved during each year of his career.

Comeau, who will be skating with his fourth NHL team, spent the last two seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets and was a valuable contributor to their third line. He was fifth on the Blue Jackets with 197 hits, spent a little bit of time (24 seconds per game) killing penalties, but spent most of his time making life difficult for the opposition on the forecheck.

He isn’t ashamed to drop the gloves when he has to, but has only participated in five over his NHL career. He put up 16 points (five goals) in 61 games last season, but did post a career high 46 points (24 goals) for the New York Islanders during the 10-11 season.

While the Penguins have added some new faces, they have already lost a few.

Brooks Orpik joins the Washington Capitals on a five-year, $27.5 million dollar contract. While Orpik is an upgrade over some of the inhabitants of that blueline in Washington that is well above what you would have expected he would end up with.

You can likely thank Todd Reirden for that signing, but it also speaks to the reasoning why he wasn’t kept on the coaching staff in Pittsburgh. If Brooks Orpik is still a top three defenseman in the NHL, he won’t be for many more years.

The Penguins also lost Jussi Jokinen, who inked the deal he had been hoping for in Florida, a four-year, $4 million dollar contract.

While Jokinen did great work in Pittsburgh and was chameleon-like in his ability to play almost anywhere in the lineup, he was essentially looking at being out of hockey 15 months ago. He passed through waivers without a single claim and was shipped to the Penguins for essentially nothing.

While he can still be a productive player, it is doubtful that he will be able to maintain his current level of productivity. He will get a chance to work with Alexander Barkov, but for as talented as he is, he is not yet Evgeni Malkin.

Joe Vitale has also moved on, joining the Arizona Coyotes on a three-year deal. That is tremendous job security for a guy of Vitale’s stature.

Sounds like there could still be a move or two in the hopper for the Penguins and we’ll bring you thoughts an analysis as they happen.