The Antero Niittymaki dilemma finally came to an end today. The announcement came from Executive Vice President and GM Brian Lawton, saying, "We fully recognized the need to add an experienced backup goaltender this summer and today we feel we’ve accomplished that goal.
“Not only is Antero already an established number two in the NHL who can steal games, but we feel he is very capable of working with Mike Smith to give us a formidable one-two punch in goal."
The Finland native Niittymaki has been looking for a new home as of recent when he and Martin Biron could not agree on contracts with the Philadelphia Flyers, the only NHL team Niittymaki ever played for.
It is not that Niittymaki was a bad goaltender--he has played 161 NHL games while posting close to .500 with a 62-61-23 record--and he appeared to be somewhat consistent, maintaining a 90.1 percent save percentage.
In his rookie year, Niittymaki was tied for third among NHL rookie goaltenders with 23 wins, which was a Flyers first since 1986-1987.
Niittymaki had more international success, sending Team Finland to the gold medal game, eventually winning the silver medal in the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. He was also named the tournament MVP.
Last season was an improvement for Niittymaki, as he saw both his save percentage increase from .907 to .912 and his goals-against decrease from 2.91 to 2.76.
With stars such as Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St-Louis, Steven Stamkos and second overall pick Victor Hedman, who signed a three-year entry deal, the Lightning appear to have few weaknesses in offense or defense.
The question remains, can the Finnish goaltender handle the pressure and strain of a full NHL season and backstop the Lightning to another success playoff appearance?