NHL Trade Speculation: San Jose Sharks' Antti Niemi Would Be Part of Rick Nash Deal

Scott SemmlerAnalyst IIMay 1, 2012

SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 31:  Ryan Russell #25 of the Columbus Blue Jackest attacks the net, skating between Douglas Murray #3 and Antti Niemi #31 of the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion at San Jose on January 31, 2012 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Although the 2011-12 NHL season ended far too early than expected for the San Jose Sharks, the speculation of NHL free agency will not be running more rampant around a team than the Sharks this summer.  

San Jose is a buyer, seller, desperate and greedy all at the same time, and it should make for some entertaining theater this offseason.

The latest trade speculation comes from the Columbus Blue Jackets' side of things. Among the players they intend to shop, based on their worst record in the 2011-12 NHL regular season, is scorer Rick Nash, who should see many teams inquiring about his services.

Among the teams inquiring, the Sharks appear to be obvious players.

San Jose was very close to closing the deal to land Nash before the 2012 NHL trade deadline, but Columbus wanted Sharks phenom Logan Couture. GM Doug Wilson and did not budge.

This time around, things are likely to change.

The Sharks are now in need of a team makeover.  The squad they put on the ice night after night in 2011-12 is not going to win a Stanley Cup, and Wilson knows that. We can expect him to be awfully aggressive this summer.  

Be assured, Nash is at the top of his list.

To sweeten the pot even more, Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson made this statement on Monday.

“We need a different look in goal. We need better play from that position. I told Steve (Mason) in our exit interviews (earlier this month) that we’re going to have a different look at that position next year, but that right now, nobody can predict what form that’s going to take.”

So no more Steve Mason in Columbus after that kind of a season in net, and suddenly the Blue Jackets need a goalie.

Enter Antti Niemi into the discussion.

It would only seem right that we link the quote and the Rick Nash topic together. Howson wants a change in net, the Sharks have a surplus of netminders, and Nash wants out of Columbus.

You can believe Wilson was on the phone with Howson moments upon hearing the quote.

The Sharks would be fine letting go of Niemi. Thomas Greiss is fully capable of becoming the starter in net next season, and Alex Stalock, Harri Sateri and Tyson Sexsmith are all young goalies in the Sharks system that can one day become the starting netminder in San Jose.

However, the Blues Jackets still want more than just Niemi if a deal for Nash is going to get done. Columbus has made it clear they want young talent that they can build a franchise around. San Jose has that, but do they want to part with it?

That has been the question since the trade deadline. The Blue Jackets want a package that consists of either Couture, Joe Pavelski or Ryane Clowe, and Wilson is not sure if he can do such a thing to this franchise or this fanbase.

With Niemi suddenly becoming a key player in this potential trade, the Sharks would have to package someone like Pavelski with him in order for this deal to be accepted by Columbus. Clowe and Niemi alone are not enough to sway the Blue Jackets, and San Jose is simply not parting with Couture, who they plan to build the next generation of their franchise around.

Take Patrick Marleau into account, as well. The Sharks would be wise to trade him this summer, and if they can package him in the deal for Nash, it would be a win for Wilson and Co.

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