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Numbers Game: Sharks Have a New Goaltender

Scott Cullen
7/1/2010 4:11:12 PM
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San Jose turned the page on its goaltending when they let Evgeni Nabokov hit the free agent market and then they addressed the need by signing Antero Niittymaki.

Numbers Game looks at the Sharks' goaltending situation.

The Sharks Get: G Antero Niittymaki.

Niittymaki, 30, will have a legitimate chance to start for a very good San Jose team; an opportunity for a breakthrough statistical season.

Last year in Tampa Bay, Niittymaki split time with Mike Smith, eventually taking over the starting role and tying a career high with 46 starts.  His .909 save percentage is average and while going from Tampa Bay to San Jose doesn't necessarily mean fewer shots against (31.4 per game for both teams last season), there will be a better opportunity for wins with a Sharks team that is expecting to contend for the Stanley Cup.

If he gets 50 starts, Niittymaki should easily surpass his career high of 23 wins, set with Philadelphia in 2005-2006.

By bringing in Niittymaki, who is signed for two years and an economical $4-million, the Sharks are also creating a better opportunity for Thomas Greiss, the 24-year-old who started 11 games for San Jose last season.
Greiss may not be ready for a starting job, but his .912 save percentage last season should at least earn him a more significant role and if he ends up getting 25-30 starts, that will provide a better indication of his level of play as an NHL goaltender.

Since the Sharks didn't achieve their desired objective with Evgeni Nabokov in goal, it makes sense to go in another direction and, by spending less on goaltending, the Sharks do have more flexibility when it comes to filling out the rest of their roster; most notably replacing retired Rob Blake on defence.

Tampa Bay responded to the loss of Niittymaki by adding Dan Ellis as a free agent.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.

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