Monday, February 27, 2012

San Jose Sharks: Antti Niemi to Flyers Trade Rumor Only Makes Matters Worse

As previously mentioned in a more recent article, the San Jose Sharks were not far off from adding goalie Antti Niemi to the list of possible movers on NHL Trade Deadline Day.

Early Monday morning, Niemi was mentioned in a trade that would send him to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for young left winger James Van Riemsdyk.  The Flyers rejected the trade on
the basis that they did not like Niemi's current contract.  The Sharks signed Niemi to a four-year, $15.2 million contract in March 2011 with a $3.8 million cap hit per season.

But what does that say about how the Sharks view their starting goalie right now?

Niemi has been slumping substantially as of late, losing seven of the last nine games he has started.  It has also placed the Sharks in a pivotable position just two points inside the Western Conference playoff picture and two points out of the top spot in the Pacific Division.  San Jose has won the Pacific Division the last four seasons.

Placing Niemi in the trade talks for Van Riemsdyk out of the blue should make Niemi a little disgruntled.  He was recently called out by his head coach Todd McLellan, then replaced in two games this past week by back-up Thomas Greiss.

The actions displayed by the Sharks' front office on Monday made it clear the franchise has faith in Greiss and no faith in Niemi at this point.

The presumed reason for the Niemi trade rumors was that the Sharks are stocked with goalies.  Niemi happens to be the starter now and Greiss would be the next in line, but the franchise also owns young goalies Alex Stalock, Tyson Sexsmith and Harry Sateri, any of which could start for the Sharks within the next 2-5 years.

Niemi's stock happens to be extraordinarily high at this time, if we can look past these last two weeks.  He won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks and took San Jose to the Western Conference Finals in back-to-back seasons.

Can you blame GM Doug Wilson for throwing his name out there to suitors?

However, it is doubtful Niemi sees it that way.

This last week has sucked the pride and confidence right out of the netminder, whether it was McLellan's public comments or being replaced in net twice in one week, and a trade rumor involving him is the last thing he needed to hear.  Whether Niemi is the man in goal for the Sharks for the remainder of the season or not, this trade deadline should be a turning point to this season.

The Sharks return back home to HP Pavilion against the team Niemi was rumored to be traded to -- the Philadelphia Flyers.

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