Friday, January 27, 2012

Another Look at the Sharks Goaltending Situation and Why I'd Trade Greiss

In the Bay Area, a "hot" topic of discussion is the Sharks's goaltending situation. Like the Flyers in the postseason last year, the Sharks have three goalies at their disposal. Unlike Philadelphia, however, you don't have to decide which goaltender is going to mess up the least. For those of you unaware, the Sharks currently have Antti Niemi and Thomas Greiss on the roster with Antero Niittymaki waiting in the wings as he conditions in the AHL after injury. As the trade deadline is coming up next month, fans are in wonder as to what moves their team might make. But Sharks fans, I have a surprise for you as we look at one more angle that could factor into the decision, Greiss or Niittymaki?

There is absolutely no question that the Sharks will keep Niemi at net. He has been a great goaltender for the Sharks, and he has been the undisputed number one since the middle of the season last year. He isn't a piece that the team is looking to shop. Now the debate is between Greiss, the up-and-comer, or the veteran Niittymaki who was able to step in and step up during the playoffs last season. In my opinion, Sharks can get more for Greiss than Niittymaki. Greiss is a player that can be developed into a number one but serve as a number two in the meantime. He hasn't played very often during this season because Niemi is the type of goalie who plays best with a heavy workload, but when he has played, he has performed well. I have to say that the errors he makes can mostly be chalked up to his inexperience... and very sporadic game time. Niittymaki is a veteran who can offer a lot, but I would say his health hasn't been stable and might be a problem in his sell. He missed a good chunk of the season last year, and he hasn't played a game this season yet and we've just passed the halfway mark.

But you already know this. What some fans haven't considered is who do the Sharks have down in the minors who could be making the move up? Answer: Alex Stalock. If I were Ron Wilson, I'd be evaluating the goaltender's development and whether he may be a viable option down the line. Last year, Stalock suffered a rather nasty injury when Manchester Monarch Dwight King accidentally skated over his leg during a game, severing a nerve. Stalock recently returned back to Worcester Sharks, and he is the goalie on the verge of breaking the ranks of the minors. Now, this is a leg injury that could affect his game, but as he is the most NHL-ready goaltender prospect, it would be wise to monitor his progress to determine the goalie situation. Ideally, you want to have a goaltender waiting in the wings. If you've taken the time (as in years and years and years) to draft and develop a goaltender, which is entirely different than any other position, then you're going to want to use him. I'd want to make sure that Stalock has the potential to make it up through the ranks to break into the NHL before I traded away Greiss. Just to keep in mind, you still have Harri Sateri also within the system who is showing great promise in case Stalock is a bust. In any case, I wouldn't be giving away Greiss without an assurance that Stalock is healthy because I'd want to keep some young talent.

If I had to decide right now, who would I trade? I'd trade Greiss. I know Sharks fans won't like this, but right now this is probably the best solution. Sharks need a top six forward, and it's no secret that they do, but in order to do this, you're going to have to give up quite a bit. What player(s) are you willing to give up? Do you really want to trade away more draft picks because you're hardly in that position after the major trades with Minnesota? If you give up Greiss, you can dump in another player like Handzus and get a player like Ryan Malone with Tampa Bay or bring back Michalek with the Senators or even Ryan O'Reilly with the Avalanche. Actually, I like the O'Reilly fit because he's also a big body that can add some aggressive play that the Sharks lack from time to time. I think this also better serves Greiss who let's be honest got screwed over last year. By trading him to a team like Tampa Bay, Ottawa, or Colorado, he has a good chance at taking the number one spot or at least playing a lot more games. Handzus would also be a good fit for the Avalanche because he can add veteran presence to a young team.

If you trade Niittymaki, you might be giving up Jamie McGinn. I think he could potentially have a great career with the Sharks, and I think his potential is greater than Greiss who probably would want to be leaving the team in a couple years anyway since he probably would want a starting job which wouldn't happen under Niemi. I think the Sharks don't have enough young talent quite yet to be trading away a player like McGinn. Even if you don't want to keep Niittymaki, there are plenty of other viable second string goalies. Niemi takes the bulk of the workload and needs it, so it would be more beneficial to get a Giguere or Garon since they wouldn't have to play as often. In fact, Giguere might even prefer it, but you might have to pay him more than you'd want. Garon you might not have to pay too much for which is beneficial since this isn't a position you'll want to focus too much of the salary cap. 

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