Tuesday, December 6, 2011

San Jose Sharks: 5 Teams That Could Use Antero Niittymaki

It has been a tough break for Antero Niittymaki since becoming a San Jose Shark, especially in the last year.

Injuries have kept him down, and now with Thomas Greiss playing excellent in net in relief of Antti Niemi, it would seem that Niittymaki's days in teal are numbered.

He has two choices: be dealt (to a team hopefully in need of a decent goaltender), or be the man in Worcester.

If you're asking GM Doug Wilson, I would think he would take the latter.

Alex Stalock and Harry Sateri are the go-to guys in net in Worcester, and it would not be right to hold those players back in order to ready Nitty for another run in the NHL.

Thus, there is only one answer, and it is the trade block.

Here are five teams that could use a player like Antero Niittymaki in net.

5. Toronto Maple Leafs

It would not be a reach to say that the Toronto Maple Leafs are headed to the playoffs this season.

Currently sitting in the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, there is much room for the team to go up in conference.

The clear weakness of the Leafs is their goaltending, which ranks 27th in the NHL in goals-against. Jonas Gustavsson is the man in net for now, but only because James Reimer has battled through injuries this season.

In any case, there is room for Niittymaki on this team, and it would not hurt considering how desperate their talent in net is. Given a good goalie, this is a team with more than just playoffs aspirations.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets are another team with good talent offensively, but lacking in net.

Steve Mason is simply not cutting it and the Jackets could use a veteran between the pipes to help them reach the playoffs.

Columbus is ranked 28th in goals-against, giving up an average of 3.3 goals per game.

Anything would help this team, and Niittymaki could be that guy. The Blue Jackets also have some nice pieces to give back in return.

3. Ottawa Senators

Craig Anderson is capable of leading a team in the playoffs—it is just getting there that may be the problem.

The Senators are ranked last in goals-against, giving up nearly 3.5 goals per game, yet they are in the running for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Ottawa has to make a choice; they can either ride out Anderson and his mediocre play in net, or make a stand and trade for Niittymaki in an attempt turn this team around between the pipes.

2. New York Islanders

The Islanders have had a rough year so far, but it got even worse when Evgeni Nabokov went down with an injury earlier this season.

His replacements in Rick DiPietro and Al Montoya have played fine in relief, but New York is still stuck in the Eastern Conference cellar.

One possible change could be a new goalie altogether. Niittymaki could be of use for New York and may be a welcome surprise to the Islanders as they try to recover their season.

1. Dallas Stars

After losing Brad Richards to the free-agent market in the offseason, the Dallas Starshave turned out to be a wonderful surprise in the NHL this season.

Not many foresaw a third-place Dallas team this early in the season. However, the road got a little tougher when Kari Lehtonen went down with injury a little more than a week ago.

Andrew Raycroft has been terrible in relief and it begs the question whether or not theStars should start searching for another replacement if Lehtonen does not fully heal from his groin injury.

The Sharks dealing to a Pacific division foe is unlikely, but given the right deal of desperation from Dallas, and San Jose may be willing to talk.

Lehtonen is injury-prone, Raycroft has been terrible thus far, and Niittymaki could be the answer to Dallas' problems.

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