Plan B: what if Niemi's not ready?

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Plan B: what if Niemi's not ready?

Kevin Kurz
CSNCalifornia.com

It doesnt take a Scotty Bowman or Mike Keenan to tell you that putting in your third string goaltender to start the season isnt ideal.

Here's what we know: Sharks starter Antti Niemi reportedly could be out 12 weeks -- sidelining him for the season opener on Oct. 8. Backup Antero Niittymaki could be out until January, and top prospect Alex Stalock cant even suit up for practice until February of 2012, meaning the Sharks could face an early hurdle to getting off to the strong start they so desperately seek this season.

Is it time to worry? Yes and no.

First, Niemis cyst-removal recovery, while nothing to scoff at, is still is not all that serious. It's not a torn knee ligament, it's not a concussion. The season is a long one, and barring something unforeseen, the veteran netminder will be back on his skates when it matters most.

Entering his second season in San Jose, Niemi showed down the stretch last season he could handle a heavy workload. In case youve forgotten, Niemi started 34 consecutive games when Niittymaki was battling his nagging injury problems, and went 24-4-4 with a 2.05 goals-against average and .929 save percentage over that span.

However, its nearly impossible in the NHL to have a successful regular season without both your starter and backup contributing solid play between the pipes. GM Doug Wilson knows it, which is why he signed Niemi in the summer of 2010 to join the veteran Niittymaki.

Thomas Greiss, who would probably be considered the third stringer at this point, doesnt have much NHL experience. In fact, after playing in 19 games over the course of two seasons with the Sharks, he packed his bags for the Swedish Elite League last season and put up some pretty pedestrian numbers. If the Sharks really considered him a viable option for an NHL job, they probably would have kept him around.

Meanwhile, Stalock is still on the long road to recovery from his serious severed nerve injury that he sustained last February while playing for Worcester. Even though hes ahead of schedule, its unlikely Stalock has any impact on Sharks this season. Instead, the club would be wise to ease him back into the AHL lineup at some point this year with the goal of him being fully healthy for training camp 2012.

Could Wilson be in the market for an experienced NHL backup, like, say, Marty Turco? You would have to think hes exploring that option, since the Sharks want to avoid their up-and-down first half of the season that they suffered through last year.

Having said all that -- would you be comfortable with Niemi and Greiss as your goalie tandem for the first half of this season, or are you worried about the Sharks goalie depth? Let us know in your comments below.

Sharks ink pair of European prospects

Sharks ink pair of European prospects

The Sharks officially announced the signing of defenseman Radim Simek to a one-year contract on Tuesday, as well as Swedish forward Filip Sandberg to a two-year contract.

Simek’s deal was reported on Monday and confirmed by NBC Sports California. The contract is valued at $925,000 for the 2017-18 season, a source confirmed. The 24-year-old defenseman spent the past five seasons in the Czech league, posting 24 points (11g, 13a) and 30 penalty minutes with a plus-18 rating last season. A left-handed shot, he is listed at five-foot-11 and 196 pounds on the IIHL website.

In 211 career games in the Czech league, he posted 91 points (37g, 54a) and a plus-51 rating.

"Radim is a quick transition defenseman who drives the play offensively and plays with a physical edge," general manager Doug Wilson said in a statement. "We like his offensive instincts especially on special teams and think his game will translate well in North America."

Sandberg, 22, has 71 points (25g, 46a) in 204 career games in the Swedish league. Last season, he posted 25 points (8g, 17a) and a plus-17 rating in 52 games.

Sandberg is set to make $742,500 in 2017-18 and $792,500 in 2018-19, a source confirmed.

The five-foot-nine, 180-pound Stockholm native also competed in the World Jr. Championships in 2013 and 2014, helping Sweden win silver both years.

"Filip is a very creative player who sees the ice well and can create offense in limited space," Wilson said. "He plays a high-pressure, puck-pursuit game and his battle level is something we have been impressed with, especially against older players. We are excited for him to join our organization."

The contracts for Simek and Forsberg are two-way deals, allowing them to play for the AHL Barracuda next season.

Sharks sign defenseman from Czech Republic

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AP

Sharks sign defenseman from Czech Republic

The Sharks have signed Czech defenseman Radim Simek to a one-year contract.

The two-way deal, originally reported by Radio Praha in the Czech Republic, is expected to be announced by the Sharks later this week, according to a source. Simek just finished competing for his country in the 2017 IIHF World Championships, skating in all eight games for the Czech Republic while posting one goal, one assist, 11 shots and a minus-two rating.

Simek, 24, has spent the last five seasons in the Czech League. In 42 games for Liberec in 2016-17, he posted 24 points (11g, 13a) and 30 penalty minutes with a plus-18 rating. A left-handed shot, he is listed at five-foot-11 and 196 pounds on the IIHF website.

The New York Rangers were also interested in Simek, according to the report.

Simek will likely begin next season with the AHL Barracuda.

The Sharks have signed a number of free agents out of Europe in recent seasons, including Joonas Donskoi in 2015 and Marcus Sorensen and Tim Heed last May.