SJ Sharks GM Doug Wilson fires down Antti Niemi, Owen Nolan rumors

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for finiemi.jpgNow that the San Jose Sharks lost out to the Los Angeles Kings in the Willie Mitchell Sweepstakes, the rumors switch back to former captain Owen Nolan and Cup winning goalie Antti Niemi. Great Sharks beat writer David Pollak shot down both rumors in a post tonight.

2) Never say never, but do not expect to see Owen Nolan back with the Sharks this season. Just not going to happen, says a front-office source.

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In recent years with Calgary and Minnesota, Nolan seems to take particular delight in scoring against the Sharks – the team that traded him to Toronto in 2003 – and you might think his performance against San Jose might be reason enough for the Sharks to re-sign him, even at age 38. But the Sharks say they believe they’ve got prospects – think Cam Macintyre or maybe Tommy Wingels – ready to step into the role Nolan would occupy at this point in his career and seem determined to go that route.

3) Again, never say never, but though the Sharks continue to be cited in some circles as a logical place for Blackhawk castoff Antti Niemi to land, sources insist that won’t be happening, that an all-Finnish goalie tandem of Niemi and Antero Niittymaki is not part of the plan.

“We made our move on our goaltender,” has been general manager Doug Wilson’s standard response when the question comes up.

Both rumors make at least some sense, though.

I’d imagine if there was a good fit for Niemi in a “Put in one more good year to make more money next year” kind of way, it would be the always-close-but-not-quite-there Sharks. The common question is: “Are they really going to trust their goalie situation to Antero Niittymaki and Thomas Griess?” Yet Doug Wilson seems quite comfortably laying in that netminding bed.

Nolan seems like a lower risk, lower reward type move. While both are likely to need to settle for a short term, low-money contract, Nolan would only occupy a low priority bottom-six forward spot rather than the most pivotal position in the game.

Regardless, Wilson prefers cheaper players in net and younger players in the bottom six. If he does decide to change course, though, we’ll be sure to let you know.

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    Zetterberg on pace to play 1,000th game in Joe Louis Arena farewell

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    Barring injury, Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg will get the opportunity to make his 1,000th NHL game even more special.

    Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill confirmed today that Zetterberg will play tonight and tomorrow in Carolina, putting the 36-year-old on pace to play his 1,000th game on Apr. 9, the date of the final Wings game at Joe Louis Arena.

    The Wings, who will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990, have eight games left in their regular season. They host New Jersey on Apr. 9.

    Tonight’s game was originally scheduled for Dec. 19, but had to be postponed due to poor ice conditions at PNC Arena.

    Isles sign Northeastern captain Stevens

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    John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.

    Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).

    Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.

    A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.

    McElhinney to start for Leafs tomorrow

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    Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.

    Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.

    Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”

    McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.

    It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.

    Update:

    Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.

    Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.

    The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.

    Habs sign d-man Mete, who ‘does everything’ for junior team

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    Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.

    Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.

    London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.

    “When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.

    “He does everything for us.”

    Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.