Interesting tidbit today on the future of San Jose’s goaltending from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, appearing on Edmonton’s CHED 630 radio:
“I think they’re looking for a 25-year-old goalie who can play for a few years for them. They’re going to let [Antti] Niemi’s contract run out. [Alex] Stalock they just don’t believe has grabbed the net.
“I think they’re in the market for a guy who can play net for them for a few years. I would guess that’s as high on their list of things to do as anything else.”
Niemi, 31, is a UFA on July 1 and it sounds increasingly unlikely he’ll return to the Bay Area. Stalock, 27, will be a UFA after the 2015-16 campaign.
All of which leads to some interesting speculation about who could be in goal for the Sharks next year — and beyond.
In terms of goalies that are 25 at the time of writing, Chicago’s Antti Raanta, Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom and Los Angeles’ Martin Jones jump to mind. Raanta appears to be in play, based on this latest report from the Chicago Sun-Times, as Scott Darling looks to have passed him on the organizational depth chart.
Markstrom, currently enjoying a bounce-back campaign in AHL Utica, could be viewed as expendable by the Canucks, who also have Eddie Lack — who, it should be mentioned, only just turned 27 and has one year left on his deal — and Ryan Miller, signed through 2017.
Jones, who’s served as Jonathan Quick’s backup in L.A. for each of the last two seasons, has great career statistics — .925 save percentage, 1.95 GAA, seven shutouts — but those numbers have come in a small sample size: 30 NHL appearances, and just 27 starts.
Moving out of the 25-year-old window ever so slightly, there are others to consider.
Like 26-year-old Jonathan Bernier, for example. At this point, it’s safe to assume no Leaf is safe as Toronto goes through a full-scale rebuild and, what’s more, Bernier’s a proven commodity, having appeared in nearly 100 games over the last two seasons.
Michal Neuvirth, also 26, could be a candidate. He’s been a No. 1 before (in Washington) and has really turned in on lately for Buffalo, posting a .942 save percentage in eight games in February (numbers that coincided with Jhonas Enroth being shipped off to Dallas.)
So, more than a few options here for the Sharks. And what makes their search really interesting is that, as Friedman notes, they’ll have money to play with this summer — at a time where other clubs could be hamstrung by a salary cap that might not rise all that much, if at all.
“They have a lot of cap room,” he explained. “And I could see them, in the summer, taking a look at some of these teams that need to clear room and saying, ‘What are you going to do for us?’”