It could’ve been spun as a conditioning stint, or a chance to get some game time. But when asked why goalie Antero Niittymaki had been sent to AHL Worcester, San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson didn’t play coy.
Translation: “Interested buyers, we have a healthy goalie for sale!”
Niittymaki hasn’t played an NHL game this season since recovering from September hip surgery and has completely fallen out of the San Jose goaltending rotation. Antti Niemi is the No. 1, Thomas Greiss has been outstanding in a backup role (2.09 GAA, .926 save percentage) and prospect Alex Stalock — a former standout at the University of Minnesota-Duluth — is primed to be the No. 3.
As such, Niittymaki’s received zero opportunities to play for the Sharks this season, which has frustrated him greatly.
This presents a rather interesting scenario for teams with goaltending needs. Niittymaki’s relatively cheap ($2 million cap hit), an impending UFA (rental opportunity!) and — when healthy — has played some excellent hockey.
He was the tournament MVP at the 2006 Winter Olympics, posting three shutouts in six games while leading Finland to a silver medal. Niittymaki’s also twice won 20 games at the NHL level (with Philly and Tampa Bay) and actually held the Sharks’ starting job at the start of last season (he was San Jose’s player of the month in October) before suffering a lower-body injury and losing it to Niemi.
So, which teams would be interested? Curious to note that two of Niittymaki’s former teams — the Flyers and Lightning — have been rumored to be in the market for goaltending help.
Report: Islanders cut first-rounder Barzal from camp
It seems Mathew Barzal has played in his last game in a New York Islanders’ uniform for a little while.
Barzal took part in the Islanders’ preseason finale against the Washington Capitals on Sunday, but after that contest the Islanders decided to return him to WHL Seattle, per Newsday’s Arthur Staple.
He was taken with the 16th overall pick in 2015 NHL Entry Draft. That selection was well-traveled as it originally belonged to the Pittsburgh Penguins, but was involved in the David Perron trade and then moved to the Islanders as part of Edmonton’s deal to get Griffin Reinhart.
Barzal is noteworthy for his skill and speed, but he may have slipped in the draft due to a knee injury he sustained during the 2014-15 campaign.
The Islanders also reassigned Kirill Petrov, Kevin Czuczman, Scott Mayfield, and Adam Pelech to the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Torres offered in-person hearing, potentially setting up long suspension
The 33-year-old forward that has become known primarily for his controversial hits has once again put himself in the sights of the NHL’s Department of Players Safety. They confirmed that he was offered an in-person hearing following his hit on Jakub Silfverberg Saturday night. He declined the opportunity to meet with them face-to-face, but the offer itself is an important detail because it gives the league the option to suspend him for more than five games.
It certainly seems like the stage is set for a lengthy suspension. While Torres is not considered a repeat offender as his last suspension came more than 18 months ago, the NHL still retains the right to consider his history when deciding on this matter.
Among other incidents, he was once was banned from 25 games for his hit on Marian Hossa in 2012, although it was later reduced to 21 contests after an appeal. The NHL found that Torres was guilty of breaking three rules for that hit; namely interference, charging, and illegally hitting the head. The NHL is reviewing Torres’ latest incident for the same three violations.