Over the last several years, the San Jose Sharks have had some incredible goaltending depth in their organization. Enough so that they traded away Miikka Kiprusoff to the Calgary Flames in 2003 and Johan Hedburg to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2000. Who needed them when they had Evgeni Nabakov? From his rookie season Nabakov showed brilliance in net and was a constant catalyst for their success.
Every season the San Jose Sharks seem to get to the play-offs and every season they come up short. There has been much finger pointing over the years, but my finger points straight at the stellar goaltending of Nabakov.
As predictable as it's been for the Sharks to make the play-offs and fail to get to the finals, the yearly play-off meltdown of Nabakov has become trademark too. This isn't to say that Nabby, as he's known and loved by fans, fell apart each season, it's simply that he wasn't his regular season self. Too many soft goals got through at bad times, playoff after playoff. So it comes as know surprise that this off-season Nabby got the, "It's not you, it's us," and "we'd like to see other people," brush-off from the Sharks front office.
After informing Nabokov that they wouldn't be pursuing him, the Sharks signed 30-year-old free-agent Finnish goaltender Antero Niittymaki who played for the Tampa Bay Lightning last season and the Philadelphia Flyers before that. Niittymaki showed great promise last season and the Sharks hope he can be a key ingredient for San Jose this season.
Initial reports indicated that San Jose verbally agreed to trade Nabokov's negotiating rights to the Flyers in exchange for a seventh-round pick in the 2011 draft, but the All-Star goalie who helped the Sharks to the Western Conference Finals this past season, signed a four-year, $24 million contract with St. Petersburg of Russia's Kontinental Hockey League.
Nabokov wound up his Sharks career with 293 wins and a 2.39 goals-against average. He went 40-38 with a 2.29 GAA in the postseason with San Jose.
Rumors have been swirling about the possibility of former Dallas Stars goalie Marty Turco landing in San Jose, but this now seems unlikely, and would not be a good fit for the Sharks anyway.
The San Jose Sharks look to the future with Thomas Greiss and Alex Stalock.
While it's still way to early to guess how the goaltending situation for the Sharks will play out come October, they seem to be following a recent trend in the NHL to put faith in lesser known goalies. Many have come seemingly out of nowhere the last couple of seasons, to explode for their teams. In fact, the Sharks were ousted by relative unknown Chicago Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi last season in the Western Conference Finals.
Last season Antero Niittymaki played 49 games for the Lightning, winning 21 and losing 18 with one shutout. He had a 2.87 GAA and .909 save percentage. He shows promise, but the Sharks may not be done making moves in net at this point.