Will San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson's Inception Land Antti Niemi?

Eric ValeriContributor IMarch 18, 2017

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images


It all started so innocently.  The San Jose Sharks still smarting from a four game sweep against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals fell into an opportunity.    The Blackhawks still recovering from their Stanley cup celebration hangover found themselves entering the off season over the salary cap and having to make changes, and make them fast. The Blackhawks first move was to trade Shark killer and playoff hero Dustin Byfuglien along with Ben Eager and Brent Sopel to the Atlanta Thrashers.  Atlanta at that point had too many players on their roster to complete the trade. In swooped Doug Wilson and the Sharks and took a couple of Thrasher players thereby allowing the trade to consummate. Three Hawks players were suddenly shipped out of the conference.  A knowing smile likely permeated the Sharks executive offices. 


At that point the wheels must of started turning for Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson.  Not only can the Sharks help dismantle Chicago their new chief rival in the conference,  but possibly maneuver away a key Hawks player for themselves?  I’m talking about 26 year old, Stanley cup hero goalkeeper Antti Niemi.  The man that Wilson could project in the pipes for the Sharks for the next 10 years.  Niemi had just systematically shut down the Sharks in the Western Conference Finals.  I can picture Doug Wilson channeling literary character Lemony Snicket for an brief moment.  His hands wringing with a slight evil snicker.   


Wilson then puts a plan together that rivals this summer’s blockbuster movie, Inception.    For those of you who haven’t seen this movie yet, it is a story of team of “dream weavers” who enter the dreams of a rival to implant a thought or suggestion .  Otherwise called an Inception.   Wilson creates an Inception plan for the Blackhawks.   He signs Hawks young defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to an offer sheet of 4 years totaling $14 million.  This catches the Blackhawks completely by surprise.  Wilson is gambling that the Blackhawks would almost surely match Wilson’s generous offer not wanting to lose their young dynamic defensemen.  Especially to a conference rival.   This was a win win plan for Wilson.  The Hawks could either let Hjalmarsson sign with the Sharks and he becomes a fixture of a newly upgraded Sharks blue line,  or they match the offer and it pushes the Hawks perilously close to their cap limit.  This was still all before their pending arbitration meeting with goalie Antti Niemi.  Niemi was due a nice raise after his Stanley cup winning playoff performance.   Chicago takes the bait and matches Hjalmarsson’s offer.  They then were forced to make the difficult decision to let Niemi leave for nothing when an Arbitrator awarded him a $2.75 million a year salary.   Niemi is now an unrestricted free agent and free for the taking.  


Check mate.  Wilson’s Inception plan has worked to perfection.  The Blackhawks may call this all just a series of unfortunate events .  I call this a brilliant Inception plan by Sharks GM Doug Wilson.  Now can he complete the plan, land Niemi and push the Sharks over the Stanley Cup hump?  Only time will tell.  


Well played Doug Wilson, well played.