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Jamison out, Niemi in...maybe
Several sources confirming deal with goaltender
9/1/10 - By Mike Lee -

The Sharks mundane offseason got a little spicier on Wednesday. After team President Greg Jamison announced that he would be stepping down from his post, a report surfaced that the Sharks were on the verge of signing former Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Antti Niemi to a one-year, $2 million contract.

The Jamison announcement comes at a peculiar time, as the Sharks prepare to open the 20th pre-season training camp. He has held the title of club President for all but 7 of those training camps, assuming the role in 1996. Originally hired in 1993 as vice president of business operations, Jamison has overseen a number of significant projects that have distinguished the Sharks as one of the most successful business ventures in the professional sports landscape.

Some of his accomplishments include the securing of naming rights for San Jose Arena with Hewlett Packard, the creation of the Sharks Foundation, and the formation of Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment, which oversees daily operation of HP Pavilion and several sporting event ventures including a mixed martial arts series (Strikeforce) and the SAP Open Tennis Tournament.

His biggest achievement was his organization of the ownership group that purchased the Sharks from George Gund in 2001.

Through all of those accomplishments, a Stanley Cup has eluded the executive, who has served as the voice of the current ownership group for the last nine years. His hiring of Doug Wilson as the team’s General Manager had a trickle down affect in Wednesday’s report that San Jose was on the verge of signing Niemi.

You may recall that it was Niemi who outplayed for Sharks netminder Evgeni Nabokov in last Spring’s Western Conference Final series between the Sharks and Blackhawks. The young Finnish goaltender would go on to win all 16 games necessary for Chicago to win the Stanley Cup.

Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos broke the story of the impending signing via a Twitter post on Wednesday afternoon.

Niemi’s services became available after the Blackhawk decided that an arbitration ruling which awarded the goaltender $2.75 million was too rich for their liking. That hand may have been forced by another Wilson move earlier this off-season, when he inked Blackhawks restricted free-agent defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to a four-year contract offer. Chicago elected to match the Hjalmarsson offer, which tied up too much salary cap space.

Did Wilson take advantage of Chicago’s financial dilemma? Perhaps, but if the Kypreos report is true, he now also has $4.5 million tied up in three goaltenders. Teams don’t typically carry three goaltenders on their regular roster, so who will be the odd man out?

If Niemi’s deal is only a one-year commitment, then the Sharks will find themselves in a peculiar position next season if they can’t re-sign him. The sharks could send Thomas Greiss to Worcester, but that seems unlikely, given that have a gaggle of strong prospects in Alex Stalock, Thomas Heemskirk and Tyson Sexsmith.

Common sense says Wilson moves either Greiss or Antero Nittymaki. Nittymaki will be harder to move given his $4 million contract ($2 million each of the next two seasons), so it would appear the Greiss is the logical loser in all of this. The question is, who will take him, and what do the Sharks get in return.

Wilson still covets a top-four defenseman, but he would have to give up more than just Greiss in order to land that caliber of player. If the $2 million Niemi salary figure is accurate, that also means that San Jose will have to fill two more roster spots with about $1.1 million in cap space remaining. That would suggest that Wilson would need to package another player to free up space for an incoming topfour defenseman’s salary.

Torrey Mitchell’s $1.4 million might be an attractive contract to take over for a team looking for some speed, along with Greiss’ paltry $550,000 salary.

One other thing to consider in all of this is Nittymaki’s mindset if Niemi is in fact signed. He came to San Jose, thinking he had a legitimate shot as the Sharks number one goaltender. That would be turned upside down. How will he react to all of this, and how will it play out in terms of his performance on the ice?

What's interesting in all of this is the salary that Niemi is reportedly collecting. If it is $2 million, then why didn't he just ink that deal with Chicago in the first place? He mentioned in an interview last month that he didn't think he would be playing for anyone but the Blackhawks after their Stanley Cup victory

Two months later, he's a Shark. Let's just hope he feels slighted in some way by Chicago and has a score to settle. If the Sharks don't plug their top-four defenseman hole, they're going to need Niemi to stand on his head on a regular basis.
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