| Will free agent frenzy land a
Players and teams poised to wheel &
Its only one of the most vital positions on a
hockey team, but as of now, the Sharks are mum on who they plan to fill their
goaltending vacancy with. When San Jose announced last week that Evgeni Nabokov
and his $5 million+ salary ask were not in the Sharks plans, a big void was
created in net. Its a big hole to fill, but dont fret for Sharks
General Manager Doug Wilson. His options are plentiful. Question is, how will
it all play out?
As is the case with almost every team in the league,
the salary cap situation will play a role in how Wilson solves his goaltending
mystery. According to CapGeek.com, the Sharks have $8.965 million to play with,
but also only have 16 roster players under contract.
There are farm
hands that factor in to the equation, and Wilson has not been averse to calling
on the proving grounds in Worcester to fill roster spots, but even that does
not guarantee the most economical solution.
Take for instance the case
of netminder Alex Stalock, who is regarded as the Sharks goaltender of the
future. If San Jose were to elevate him to the NHL level, he comes at a cost of
$850k. Stalock also had a fantastic year last season, his first as a
professional. Hes not considered a realistic candidate for the starting
job in San Jose , and its unlikely that the Sharks would let him sit as a
backup, so look for Stalock to continue to season in the AHL.
already has a more economical solution in Thomas Greiss, who appeared in 16
games for the Sharks last season, earning 7 wins to go along with 5 losses. His
save percentage and goal against average were slightly lower than
Nabokovs, but the real question about Greiss is how he would fare as the
number one. He appeared in 57 games for Worcester the year before, where he had
average numbers (30-24-2, 2.47 GAA, .907 Save%).
Greiss has solid
skills, and has quietly waited for his opportunity to become the man in San
Jose . Given his salary, hes the odds on favorite to take on the
responsibility. Wilson could still bring in a free agent to compete for the
spot, but you dont typically spend big dollars on a goaltender to have
him sit. San Jose s cap situation also doesnt make that very
Wilson s other internal options dont favor farm
hands Tyson Sexsmith or Harri Sateri. Sexsmith fell out of favor in Worcester
last season after Stalock emerged as the go to guy. His $1.005 million cap hit
also make more experienced free agents more appealing.
going to shell out $1-$2 million to create a training camp battle for the top
spot on the depth charts, then there are a couple of decent options available
Former Nashville Predators netminder Dan Ellis was traded
to Montreal on Tuesday in a deal that sent Andrei Kostitsyn to Tennessee , but
Ellis becomes a free agent on Thursday morning. Montreal has his rights for 48
hours, but thats as meaningful as Evgeni Nabokov signing with
Speaking of Nabokov, his situation became more
interesting on Wednesday after Philadelphia re-signed Michael Leighton to a
2-year deal. That doesnt mean Nabokov is out of the picture in Philly,
but it does cloud things a bit.
Marty Turco is another name that keeps coming up in
any mention of San Jose and their netminding vacancy, but its unlikely
that San Jose is going to pony up the dollars that Turco is seeking. His
decline in Dallas and his age also make him a stretch for Wilson . With that
said, Wilson s biggest weakness is his penchant for aging former
superstars that are on the downside of their careers.
Turco would love
nothing more than to show up his former employer, especially with a team in the
same division. Hes openly stated that he would prefer to remain in the
Pacific, but only San Jose has a need for goaltending help.
to realistically happen, Turco will have to pull a Manny Malhotra and sign with
the goal of playing for a cup, not getting rich. Hand it to Wilson , when it
comes to wooing players whose careers are sun-setting. The allure of going out
a winner is an attractive lure.
Antero Niittymaki is another
intriguing option for the Sharks. Wilson could land him for under a $1 million,
and he has plenty of experience. Hes also one of the younger options
available. Turco is almost 35, Chris Mason is 34, Jose Theodore is 33, and
Martin Biron is 32. Like Ellis, Niitymaki is a spry 30 years old, so he creates
a longer-term option for the Sharks.
At his price tag, Niittymaki also
makes more sense if Wilson simply wants to bring in some competition to push
Greiss and Stalock.
In any case, we have the mystery solved by noon on
Thursday. The free agent signing period officially opens at 9am on the west
coast, but the glut of free-agent options gives Wilson some breathing room.
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