If Evgeni Nabokov is the greatest Sharks goaltender of all time, let Antti Niemi challenge him for that title.
With the departure of the most notable and recognizable face of the San Jose franchise, Sharks management find themselves faced with two options. They can bestow their trust upon Thomas Greiss or they can go out into the market and acquire a new number one goalie.
Option #1: Promoting From Within
Thomas Greiss has spent most of his young career with San Jose's AHL affiliate, the Worcester Sharks. With a GAA of 2.70 and save percentage of .904 in 141 AHL games, Greiss has earned very impressive numbers. He also has earned a small amount of experience in the NHL as well, recording 2.77 GAA in 19 games. Not too bad.
It would definitely be a major risk to put Greiss between the Sharks' pipes next season, but considering his stellar numbers in the AHL, it may not be completely absurd if San Jose management chooses to travel down this road.
The Sharks have signed Antero Niittymaki this offseason as a possible starter. He has proven himself as a reliable backup and somewhat of a starter with the Philadelphia Flyers and most recently, the Tampa Bay Lightning. In 210 NHL games, Niittymaki has posted a 2.98 GAA.
As it stands right now, Niittymaki would likely be the starter and Greiss the backup. A questionable tag-team for a hockey club who is looking to improve on their conference final finish this past season.
Option #2: Acquisition
Without a doubt, the Sharks are looking to make some sort of a splash by acquiring a goalie either through trade or free agency. It would be wise to believe they have looked at numerous options and have yet to find an appropriate match considering their salary cap situation.
This was the picture until the Chicago Blackhawks chose to walk away from a contract which would have given Antti Niemi $2.75 million in favor of Marty Turco, a more affordable option.
According to CapGeek.com, the Sharks have just under $3.74 million in cap space for the upcoming season. If they were to sign Niemi, sure they would be right up against the cap, but as we've witnessed this past season, that's what it takes to win a Stanley Cup.
If Antti Niemi were to become a member of the Sharks, Antero Niittymaki would be demoted to backup and Greiss would be sent to the minors.
So is Niemi the right move for San Jose? Of course!
The Sharks have qualified for the playoffs for the last six seasons. Four of those six success have come with them leading their division in points in the regular season. Last season, they made it to the Western Conference Finals. If you take out a veteran goaltender and you replace him with a goalie who won the Stanley Cup (defeating the Sharks on the way) on his first of many likely attempts, its a recipe for success! The Sharks have proven they are winners, they just need that extra push to win it all.
Doug Wilson and company need to take a serious look at Antti Niemi. We all know Niemi can deliver, it's just a matter of whether or not the Sharks are willing to welcome him as one of their own. He seems to be the best available choice.