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.


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.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.