Antti Niemi

Sharks trade Niemi – sign of bigger moves to come?

No, the San Jose Sharks were not the splashiest team in South Beach during the 2015 NHL Draft. They did, however, make a couple moves that will make the remaining offseason trade time all the more interesting.

Sure, Team Teal drafted a bevy of youngsters who we will hopefully get a good look at when the team holds development camp in a couple weeks. The chances of any of the nine draftees becoming fixtures on the NHL roster this season doesn’t appear very high though — even with that impressive 24-game points streak that first round pick Timo Meier has on his resume.

But the biggest news out of the weekend was about who was subtracted from the team, with news breaking early Saturday morning that goaltender Antti Niemi’s rights had been traded to the Dallas Stars for the 193rd overall pick. That starting goalie position is still open.

San Jose concluded activity in Florida without adding a replacement for Niemi to the roster, despite rumors that they were in the mix for a netminder or two. They most notably missed out on the Cam Talbot sweepstakes as the former New York Ranger was traded to the new home for Todd McLellan, the Edmonton Oilers.

Add to the mix that, as Saturday drew to a close, a handful of goaltenders swapped teams, and the Sharks stood pat. GM Doug Wilson reportedly told the media that there are still plenty of options, including goalies “available in discussions than you guys hear about.”

Let’s play devil’s advocate here for a second. As frustrating as the having the empty roster spot may be, keep in mind: The Draft wasn’t San Jose’s only opportunity to find their next starting goaltender, or trade for any other position player for that matter.

It could be that what the Sharks did over this weekend was a prelude to “wheeling and dealing” in the upcoming week, including finding a starting goalie. It’s highly unlikely they would give Alex Stalock the starting job, and Troy Grosenik and his new two-year contract extension probably won’t be seeing much ice time in San Jose, unless someone gets injured. It’s not like San Jose is planning on putting any of the newly drafted goalies on the big club roster either. No, it isn’t comforting that the Sharks exit the 2015 Draft without a replacement for Niemi, but that doesn’t mean they won’t trade for someone in the near future.

There are also other holes to fill, not just in the goaltending department. Niemi was only one player the list of Sharks unrestricted free agents who will not be returning to San Jose next season. The Sharks were active late Saturday re-signing RFAs Grosenik and forward Melker Karlsson, in addition to inking deals with AHL forwards Jeremy Langlois and Petter Emanuelsson, and re-signing defenseman Karl Stollery.

So it at least appears that, while they didn’t make the most noise at the Draft, San Jose is warming up to making a big move in the coming weeks. If that is the case, finding a new starting goaltender should be at the top of their to-do list.

Of course, there is the flip side to this argument. What if the Sharks past up their best opportunity of getting a suitable replacement for Niemi? What if the Sharks don’t actually know of that many available goaltenders on the market? Wilson reportedly told the media “it’s still June” and that there is still time on the clock. But what if this exercise in patience doesn’t produce a suitable fit for the starting goaltender job?

The jury is still out on how much noise San Jose will be making as we head into the rest of the summer. There is still a possibility that we will see more activity when free agency starts on July 1.

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