If you were under the impression that NHL’s Southeast Division teams were owned by fellows named Leonsis, Karmanos, Cohen, Barrie, Koules and Belkin, you would be mistaken, my friend.
The owner of the Southeast Division is former Philadelphia Flyers backup goaltender Antero Niittymaki, who today has officially joined the Tampa Bay Lightning, according to a team press release issued this morning.
Terms of the deal
are reported to be one-year, $600,000 (hat tip to PhilaBrite blog).
Considering Niittymaki’s dominance over Southeast Division opponents these last two seasons (a whopping 17-1-1), what on the surface appears to be a minor roster move for a backup goaltender could actually prove to be one of the shrewdest acquisitions of the 2009 free agent market.
The Lightning play one-third of their scheduled regular season contests (twenty-four in all) against their Southeast Division opponents.
For Tampa Bay to bring in a goaltender that has a lifetime record of 27-6-4 against Washington, Carolina, Florida and especially Atlanta (Niittymaki currently owns a 13 game winning streak against the Thrashers) is a stroke of genius.
If you remove Philadelphia’s disastrous 2006-2007 season from the equation, Niittymaki’s combined record against those same teams is a flabbergasting 25-0-4.
Considering his dominance over the Southeast, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Lightning designate Niittymaki as their “Southeast Specialist,” and give him every start divisional start.
If the Lightning want to make a return to the post season in 2009-2010, they’ll need to be extremely competitive in divisional contests.
Signing the owner of the Southeast Division is definitely as step in the right direction for the Bolts.
For Ronny's daily hockey thoughts, visit him at the Ronnybrook blog.