Niittymaki defined by time spent off ice

January 25, 2012, 7:38 pm
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UPDATE: 5:00 p.m. Antero Niittymaki told a Finnish journalist that he was never informed that he was being waived, and that he found out whole driving to Lake Tahoe with his family. General manager Doug Wilson, however, vehemently denied that, saying that Niittymaki's agent, Larry Kelly, was informed by telephone on Monday of the Sharks' intentions, and that Kelly said in that conversation that he would inform Niittymaki. Kelly could not be reached for comment at the time of this update to confirm or deny Wilson's claim.

Heres a thought -- Antero Niittymaki lost his job as the Sharks second goaltender merely to injury.

Heres a better one. He lost it because Doug Wilson couldnt move him.

Niittymaki never really got his break in San Jose, which is pretty much the story of his NHL career. Now were not making the case that he should have gotten one; breaks are not fundamental rights, and besides, its not like he didnt get paid.

But his time off the ice came to define him as a goalie, and as time went on and San Joses apparently bloated stable of younger keepers became more and more desirable, he became less appealing not to San Jose but to the teams that had pieces Wilson would like to poach. And since the club clearly made the choice to play their younger goalies in the minors, Niittymaki would be spending the year with his feet up.

And that doesnt really work for anyone.

Niittymaki could still be a helpful get for a playoff contender working on the cheap, but all the time he spent not playing since he has come to San Jose means that he is nearly an unknown to the open market. Thus, acquiring him would not be worth a prospect, not at his age and salary, and not with his injury resume.

So Antero Niittymaki gets squeezed again. It is the nature of the beast. The Sharks had lots of goaltenders for a good long time, then they didnt, and now they do again. He played less than Chris Terreri, Jarmo Myllys and Brian Hayward, and more than Jimmy Waite, Dmitri Patzold and Jason Muzzatti. He may have deserved to have left a deeper footprint, but Darwin said otherwise. So it goes.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for