After a trying 2011-12 season that included being waived by San Jose, Antero Niittymaki is off to Finland.
The 32-year-old netminder — who spent all of last season in the AHL, appearing in just 13 games — has signed on to play with TPS Turku of the SM-liiga, Finland’s top league.
The move brings Niittymaki back to the club he starred with before joining the Flyers organization in 2002.
“It feels good to come back to TPS,” he said in a statement. “The club made it possible to put this in place over the summer, and we came to terms very quickly on the contract.”
Niittymaki wasn’t even sure he’d play hockey this season after last year’s serious hip injury. He had an artificial joint placed in the hip prior to the 2011-12 campaign and struggled with it throughout.
Now healthy, it’ll be interesting to see if Niittymaki can regain his previous form. 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 2010-11. He was San Jose’s player of the month in October before suffering a lower-body injury, losing the No. 1 gig to Antti Niemi.