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Anyone in need of goalie help, call Sharks GM Doug Wilson

Jan 20, 2012, 11:03 AM EDT

Antero Niittymaki

It could’ve been spun as a conditioning stint, or a chance to get some game time. But when asked why goalie Antero Niittymaki had been sent to AHL Worcester, San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson didn’t play coy.

“He’s 100 percent healthy,” Wilson told ESPN’s Craig Custance. “He’s pain-free.”

Translation: “Interested buyers, we have a healthy goalie for sale!”

Niittymaki hasn’t played an NHL game this season since recovering from September hip surgery and has completely fallen out of the San Jose goaltending rotation. Antti Niemi is the No. 1, Thomas Greiss has been outstanding in a backup role (2.09 GAA, .926 save percentage) and prospect Alex Stalock — a former standout at the University of Minnesota-Duluth — is primed to be the No. 3.

As such, Niittymaki’s received zero opportunities to play for the Sharks this season, which has frustrated him greatly.

“What can I say? Obviously, I want to play, but it doesn’t look like I’m going to play any time soon,” Niittymaki told CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz recently. “I want to play. I want to play. Let’s put it that way. I’ve played zero games this year.”

This presents a rather interesting scenario for teams with goaltending needs. Niittymaki’s relatively cheap ($2 million cap hit), an impending UFA (rental opportunity!) and — when healthy — has played some excellent hockey.

He was the tournament MVP at the 2006 Winter Olympics, posting three shutouts in six games while leading Finland to a silver medal. Niittymaki’s also twice won 20 games at the NHL level (with Philly and Tampa Bay) and actually held the Sharks’ starting job at the start of last season (he was San Jose’s player of the month in October) before suffering a lower-body injury and losing it to Niemi.

So, which teams would be interested? Curious to note that two of Niittymaki’s former teams — the Flyers and Lightning — have been rumored to be in the market for goaltending help.

  1. finfan88shark - Jan 20, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    This is a funny article, because NO one and I mean NO ONE wants a goalie who is often injured and has not played in an NHL game in over a year. I mean can anyone honestly say that Niittymaki is worth anything at this point? The coach refuses to play him or showcase him in an NHL game, yet, they expect to trade him for what?

    • elvispocomo - Jan 20, 2012 at 2:58 PM

      Would he be the first choice of a team looking for a goalie based on potential? Probably not, Harding, Bernier, Schneider, etc would all fall into that category. (I’d include Rask but I don’t think the Bruins would move him considering Thomas’ age).

      Would he be one of the options worth considering, especially for a team not wanting to give up a lot to get him or get a goalie with a big contract? Definitely yes.

  2. lsxphotog - Jan 20, 2012 at 1:18 PM


  3. danphipps01 - Jan 20, 2012 at 3:40 PM

    Philly’s still dedicated to letting Bryzgalov suck out loud and desperately hoping it all magically goes away.

    Tampa’s definitely going to be interested. Edmonton needs someone to replace the Bulin Wall eventually, since Dubnyk isn’t up for starting. If Minny loses Harding, they’re left with a hit-and-miss Backstrom, so they’d probably want a fairly proven guy to help shore their goaltending up. Let’s see… Toronto could probably stand to upgrade. Reimer’s dicey, probably overrated, and though the Monster’s looking decent, he’s hardly a guy you can ride to a top-four seed. They need a real #1 and Burke’s spent like three months advertising how willing he is to deal his players, so… yeah, they could stand to make people move somewhere. Chicago? Even if they’re winning, Crawford looks brutal and Emery’s been streaky his whole life. They need a stable, consistent #1. Some decent candidates there.

  4. soupy19 - Jan 20, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    And another Sharks goalie prospect, Tyson Sexsmith, got named to the AHL all star game. So yeah, the Sharks can probably trade a goalie or two

    • danphipps01 - Jan 20, 2012 at 5:50 PM

      This is a goaltender I can only hope and pray makes it to the NHL. Maybe as the starter for Columbus. They still have Grant Clitsome, right?

      • vanchuk - Jan 20, 2012 at 8:22 PM

        maybe they could pick up Kunitz at some point and forget the “i” on his jersey, i have also heard that alex semin is going to be a ufa and washington is tired of his lackluster effort. i think i can see where you might be going with this… and i like it!!

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