September 01, 2010
Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet reported via Twitter that Antti Niemi(notes), the Stanley Cup-winning goaltender for the Chicago Blackhawks-turned-arbitration orphan, will sign with the San Jose Sharks as early as Thursday.
The folks at Fear The Fin are baffled, because they feel this signing runs counter to many of the moves GM Doug Wilson has made this offseason and because they really, really didn't see it ever happening. The four most expected reactions to this signing, in our opinion:
1. What about Antero Niittymaki(notes)? The former Flyer and Lightning goalie signed a two-year deal with the Sharks this summer ostensibly to become their primary keeper in the wake of Evgeni Nabokov's(notes) departure. He was a veteran deemed worthy of a shot, a winner in the past and a thrifty alternative to other options.
The notion that Niittymaki and Thomas Greiss(notes) (or another young goaltender) could successfully backstop a contender in the West was defended as part of a paradigm shift for NHL goaltending, while at the same time kind of absurd. What Niemi does is put Niittymaki back in the role he excels in: The No. 1-A goaltender who pushes the other guy and then gives you a dozen great starts when he's torrid.
2. What about the defense? The Sharks chased Willie Mitchell(notes) to no avail and still haven't replaced the quality minutes of Rob Blake(notes). Wilson indicated that move could come deeper into the season, but the fact remains that Niemi's salary added to this cap would limit their options ... unless another move is coming.
3. How devious is Doug Wilson? So is it now hockey gospel that Wilson's offer sheet to defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson(notes) was part of a devious scheme to pry Niemi loose? And if not, can we say it is?
4. Finally, what was Niemi thinking? Hey, whaddya know: The grass isn't always greener. The Blackhawks had offered him in the neighborhood of $2 million for a short-term deal. He signs with the Sharks for ... $2 million for a short-term deal.
Now granted, the Sharks may actually be the better team now after The Great Salary Purge of Chicago. But the fact remains that the Blackhawks walked away from a $2.75 million arbitration award and Niemi couldn't match that total on the open market; or, if he could, decided on joining a platoon with a contender rather than making a money grab with an also-ran.
Bottom line: The Sharks have themselves a Stanley Cup-winning goalie for the first time since ... uh ... er ... Mike Vernon? So it's been a while.