Free agent watch: San Jose Sharks edition

Antti-Niemi-Sharks-2011

The Edmonton Oilers will take on the Sharks in San Jose tonight, and it’s an interesting opportunity for the team to take a close look at a number of players currently bound for unrestricted free agency. It’s a given that we’re going to see significant changeover of the roster in the summer; are any of these free agent Sharks particularly appealing?

The List

Player Pos. Cap Hit Age  Size Stats Line
Tyler Kennedy RW 2.35 29 5’11”, 185 18GP, 4-3-7, 11:37 TOI
James Sheppard C 1.30 27 6’1″, 215 44GP, 5-10-15, 13:59 TOI
Andrew Desjardins C 0.75 29 6’1″, 195 47GP, 2-2-4, 10:37 TOI
John Scott W 0.70 33 6’8″, 260 21GP, 1-1-2, 7:09 TOI
Matt Irwin D 1.00 27 6’2″, 210 25GP, 3-5-8, 16:34 TOI
Scott Hannan D 1.00 36 6’1″, 215 38GP, 0-1-1, 15:34 TOI
Antti Niemi G 3.80 32 6’2″, 210 37GP, 21-11-5, 0.914 SV%

Age as of Oct. 1 of next season; salary information via NHLNumbers.

We can obviously nix a couple of names immediately. Scott Hannan is old and relatively ineffective, while the Oilers already have an enforcer under contract for next year and thus have no slot open for John Scott. Antti Niemi is obviously of particular interest.

Greater Detail

  • RW Tyler Kennedy

Kennedy’s going to be an interesting reclamation project for someone. He’s not big and he’s a thoroughly mediocre finisher, but he’s an exceptional skater with a decent two-way game and a willingness to play in traffic. He’s also a guy who posts consistently decent underlying numbers. Injuries have at times been a problem and have gone a long way toward defining this season.

I don’t expect the Oilers will have much interest in him; he’s not big and he doesn’t kill penalties and he plays the wing. But he might be a nice value pick-up this summer for someone.

  • C James Sheppard

Sheppard’s a player who might be of more interest in Edmonton. A versatile two-way forward with size, the downside is that he isn’t particularly quick; looking back at his draft day scouting report his size 15 feet were mentioned and one scout said “he tends to lumber.” He’s not a great finisher but has some scoring touch, but his primary value is in a bottom-six defensive role. He’s physical, can play centre or wing, wins faceoffs and fights occasionally, though weirdly he doesn’t kill penalties. His underlying numbers are pretty decent given his team/role.

He’s the right age and size for the Oilers, and critically could slot in as a bottom-six centre or start out on the wing and switch to the middle if/when the need arose.

  • C Andrew Desjardins

Like Sheppard, Desjardins is a pivot who can also play wing. Size is neither a great strength or weakness, but he does play an intensely physical style of hockey and has no compunctions about fighting. He has minimal offensive ability and his underlying numbers aren’t great, though it’s also worth noting he generally plays with enforcers. He’s a reasonably good faceoff man and a regular penalty-killer.

If the Oilers decide to bring in a veteran No. 13/14 forward, Desjardins is a plausible fit; he plays a tough game and is good enough defensively for regular PK work.

  • D Matt Irwin

Irwin’s an interesting guy, in that he has good size and is primarily an offensive defenceman. His NHL numbers haven’t been incredible but he had some good minor-league campaigns in the points department and he’s a guy who can skate, pass and blast the puck. The quibbles are that he isn’t terribly physical, that he’s prone to the odd defensive gaffe and that the underlying numbers are pretty mediocre.

At this point, Irwin is primarily a No. 6/7 defenceman. What makes him interesting for a team like Edmonton is that his skillset (size, offence, skating) is not terribly common on the roster. If they’re looking for a veteran to plug into the Aulie role, this is a really interesting player.

  • G Antti Niemi

Niemi’s a proven No. 1 goaltender in the NHL. He’s in his fifth season in the starting role in San Jose since coming over from a Cup-winning run with Chicago in 2010. He has a career 0.916 save percentage over 300-odd career NHL games, but he’s been underwhelming at points in the playoffs and the expectation is that it costs him his job with the Sharks this summer, if not sooner.

If Edmonton wants to get a proven No. 1 (and at this point, I imagine they would) Niemi is probably their first phone call on July 1.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Yes to Niemmi please!

    The rest of that list reads pretty poorly though. Not a looker on the bunch! MacT will need to tap the free agent market elsewhere.

    • Yeah, there isn’t a lot there. Sheppard might be of some interest as a Hendricks replacement if the Oilers deal Hendricks, but the other three guys are all bargain bin veterans that you look at late in July if you need to shore up depth.

    • toprightcorner

      Would you have thought that Hiller would have gone to Calgary last year? Niemi will want to go somewhere he can start 60+ games and that means he has minimal options.

      • freelancer

        Ya, calgary is a competitive team that is annually battling for a playoff spot. Completely diffrent situation than edmonton.

        Niemi is a proven #1 goalie and all 29 other teams will be given an opportunity to sign him before he considers edmonton. I think the chances are extremely low he comes here.

        • toprightcorner

          Calgary annually competing for a playoff spot before signing Hiller?? Not sure where you get your info but this year is one of the biggest surprises of any team. They were 25th and 27th the past 2 years prior to signing Hiller, barely better than the 24th and 29th the past 2 seasons for the Oilers.

          Not sure where you think 29 teams need a starting goalie, the only teams out there that are in the market for a starting goaltender is BUF, OTT and maybe PHI. ARI has Smith for 3 more years and won’t buy him out after 1 bad year. At most there are 4 teams battling for the services of a starting goaltender ranking in the 10-15 range in the league.

          In other words there is a minimal market for a starting goaltender this year, there was a bigger demand last year.

  • Jason Gregor

    JW,

    If Oilers are serious about Niemi they should do what Islanders did with Halak and trade a 4th or 5th to get his rights and negotiate before anyone else can.

    Being proactive can help especially this summer where there are limited options on UFA goalie front.

    What about that Dubnyk guy…oh never mind…

    • Hey Antti, it’s the Oilers calling.

      Hi there.

      Open your front door.

      *sound of door opening* Why is there a Brinks truck parked on my lawn?

      You’ll notice the courier has a paper in his hand. Sign the bottom line and then you can roll around in the money in the back of the truck.

      *sound of pen signing paper* Wee!

      • toprightcorner

        Hey oilers fans, we got Niemi!!! But due to Nikitin, Schultz and numerous other bad contracts, we have no cap room left to bring in an NHL center or defenceman. But atleast we have lots of 19 & 20 year olds we can plug in

      • Mason Storm

        I think we are going to need a FLEET of Brinks trucks……..like last year when it pulled up at Clarkson’s door…….he said no and took less money elsewhere!

        The real question is would we be better served by trading for a goaltender and save the Brinks Truck for a defence man……..I know of one who is really good and has lot’s of life left in him.

        MacT better sign Petry…….the grass may be greener on the other side but I suspect it is artificial turf.

  • freelancer

    Would be incredibly happy if we could sign Niemi. A Niemi-Scrivens tandem should be solid for a couple years. What do you reasonably offer Niemi to come here over another market? Does a two year 12 million dollar contract sound alright? The way I see it, someone like Brossoit is at least 3 years from being NHL ready.

  • toprightcorner

    We cannot pay 6 m + for a starting goalie at this point in our rebuild. The cap is uncertain going forward and commiting those kind of dollars to a goalie is insane.Unless the defence improves first you do not need a 6 m goalie.

    If its me I pay Petry and trade JS We need a 4-5 stay home defender at 2-2.5 m per season.

    Also need to sign a 2cd line center of trade for one. Ryan O Reilly?

    • toprightcorner

      Where do you get $6 mill from? His current cap hit is $3.8, Hiller signed for $4.5 and their career stats are almost identical. If the Oilers sign Niemi it won’t be for more then $4.75 which is money well spent on a proven starter. Much better value than the $2.5 – $3.5 the Oilers have spent on unproven starters over the last 5 years.

    • Zarny

      The Oilers are currently paying $5.7M for the worst SV % in the league. Like literally the absolute worst.

      They can absolutely afford to pay a bona fide 1 G $6M per year. Given that Miller got $6M and Hiller signed for $4.5M in Calgary it’s unlikely it will cost the Oilers $6M, but even if it does it’s worth it.

      Unless you like finishing 28-30th which is what the worst SV % in the league gets you.

      • pkam

        Didn’t you say last season that Scrivens and Fasth will be better than Dunbyn?

        Niemi’s SV% last year was 0.913 and is 0.914 so far this season. Dubnyk’s has been better than Niemi even though he is playing for 2 teams below the Sharks in the standing. If Dubnyk struggled badly as an Oilers, what makes you think Niemi will not?

      • Mason Storm

        Zarny I disagree with your opinion because I think that the GA is directly related to our team defence and play by certain individuals who have underwhelmed this season.Not to be named because its pointless and not constructive. We know who they are and its not an issue that we can resolve overnight.

        Throwing 6 million dollars at a goalie at this point is futile. All you’ll get is a 6 m goalie with the same GAA as you see now with BS and VF. Until you fix the problem in front of the net no amount of money you pay any goalie is going to fix the GAA in the net.

        I would rather the Oilers target Brent Seabrook this summer. The Hawks will need to shed salary and Seabrook would net them the assets and cap relief they’ll need once Teows and Kane’s contracts kick in next year at 10.5 a year.

        There is a great article on SNation on this very issue for the Hawks.

        • pkam

          Consider Phaneuf is making 7M, I will gladly sign Seabrook to 5-6 years at 7M-7.5M than trading for Phaneuf.

          If we take Phaneuf from the Leafs, they now have a chance to target Seabrook with the cap freed up by the trade.

          What is the chance Seabrook come to Edmonton? I am not hopeful unless we crazily overpay him.

  • nuge2drai

    The Oilers can start by getting a legitimate goalie coach. With all due respect to our current one who was our Oil Kings goalie coach, I’d like to see someone with more experience to support our goalies. We don’t have to be a graveyard for goalies…

  • nuge2drai

    Niemis numbers are inflated from playing on top 2 teams over his Entire Career.

    That includes dominant teams who spend large parts of the game in the offensive zone.

    If we sign him to a 6 million dollar contract it will be Khabibulan all over again.

    He is not a superstar goalie, so please do not give him superstar money.

    His save percentage will drop below .900 if he signs here and he will eventually be bought out.

    This is not Price, Kipper, Lundqvist, Luongo we are talking about … Do not pay him like he is just because we are desperate.

    This story will not end well.

    • Tikkanese

      Like it did not end well for Hiller in Calgary? Niemi’s career > Hiller’s career.

      Niemi can’t hear you because his starting goalie Stanley Cup ring is plugging his good ear.

      News flash, even “Price, Kipper, Lundqvist, Luongo” numbers would drop playing here too given the Oilers defense. Would they get bought out here to?

      Niemi is a legit starter and has been one for a long time.

      Every goalie the Oilers’ have had since Salo(ok ok Roloson’s playoff run too) have not been legit starters.

  • pkam

    I don’t understand the Oilers fans. Dubnyk is not good enough but Niemi is? If we take last season’s number off, Dubnyk’s career SV% is .914. Niemi has been playing behind much better defense his whole career than Dubnyk, and his career SV% is .916.

    You know what worries me. After Niemi signing the Oilers for 2 year at 6M per, he and Scrivens both has a below .900 SV% next season. Fasth signs a one year contract with another NHL team at 1M and has an above .910 SV% next season.

    • Tikkanese

      Because Niemi has always been consistent and has been a starting goalie for a long time. Dubynk not even close. Oh and that Stanley Cup ring as a starter for Niemi is kind of important too.

      • gus1000

        M.A Fleury has a cup from 2009 with a save percentage during those playoffs of .908. Good for him, he won a cup ring, but I’m pretty sure the team had quite a bit to do with the win. Niemi, with his .910 % in the 2010 playoffs is the same scenario.

        Both are not guys that steal your team wins.

        Just say no to overpaying for Niemi.

  • nuge2drai

    Who knows what goalie they bring in, but history suggests which ever goalie the oilers decide to bring in he will be the wrong guy who will put up terrible numbers and be the excuse for management as to why they have another brutal year

  • TKB2677

    A little surprised at the Niemi hate. How many games have the Oilers lost this year straight up because their goaltending stunk?
    Hard to say but I bet you 10 games isn’t out to lunch. But both goalies for the Oilers are below .900 which isn’t even average NHL goaltending. Part of it can be pinned on bad defense but a big chunk is the goalies were flat out awful many games.

    Would Niemi be as good in Edmonton as he has been in San Jose? Probably not but he’s an upgrade over the 2 guys the Oilers have. Also, a good goalie can make an average NHL defense look a hell of a lot better.

    As bad as the Oilers defense has been the last few seasons, have they got even average NHL goaltending? Last year, Dubnyk/Labarbara couldn’t stop a beach ball for the first 1/3 of the season. THis season, Scrivens/Fasth at times have played just as bad as Dubnyk/Labarbara.

    • pkam

      Last season, we all thought Scrivens/Fasth would be better than Dubnyk/Labarbara. Does it happen?

      This year so far, Niemi’s SV% is 0.914. His SV% was 0.913 last year. Dubnyk who was considered worse than Scriven/Fasth, has a SV% of 0.920 so far this year, playing for 2 teams both are below the Sharks in the standing.

      If Dubnyk can’t get it done, what makes you think Niemi can? What makes you think Niemi will not play as bad as the other 4 goalies that you list?

      • TKB2677

        Dubnyk got traded to Nashville and was barely there long enough for him to know all his teammates names before the head coach (trots)on record basically called him garbage. Then he went to Montreal and they demoted him to the AHL where he wasn’t good. So you can’t pin it all on the Oilers for his struggles. 2 other WAY better teams thought he was a lost cause as well.

        I don’t have any doubt in my mind that Dubnyk did some MAJOR soul searching after last season, made some changes in how he prepares, plays and especially his mental game. I also have no doubt that Burke – who is apparently a goalie whisperer – had some impact as well.

        Now I totally get that Niemi has played on good teams, so that helps. However, he has also had a big part in his teams success. He’s got a cup and the guy flat out wins games. He comes from winning teams. So he has experience winning games and knows what it takes. The Oilers severely lack a winning culture. Most of the guys on the team have lost their entire NHL career so they don’t know how to win. So bringing in a guy like that that only knows how to win at the NHL would be an asset.

        If you look at Dubnyk. He came from Kamloops. During his time in the WHL, his team wasn’t very good. He was around a .500 goalie his entire WHL career. Then he goes to the AHL and plays on a crappy Springfield team and loses. Then he goes up to the NHL and plays on a crappy NHL team and loses. Even in Phoenix where he seemed to find his game, the team sucks. So another losing culture. So his entire pro career, he’s played losing hockey. So where is the winning experience he could draw upon to help the team? He has none.

        • pkam

          Barry Trotz didn’t say Dubnyk was garbage. He said Dubnyk picked up a lot of bad habits, which basically meant the goalie coach was garbage. After we fired Chabot, it took over a month before our 2 goalies started to play better. The Preds didn’t give Dubnyk the opportunity to turn his game around.

          If Dubnyk is really garbage, he won’t be able to turn around his game this year. His SV% and W% this year are both better than Niemi, although he is playing in the 12th and 13th place teams in the west. If Niemi can flat out win games, Dubnyk should be able to too after this season.

          He is a better goalie because he got a cup? Did you look at the roster of that SC Chicago team, especially the defense? He was playing behind Keith, Seabrook, Campbell, Byfuglien and Hjalmarsson. Our best defense Petry will not be able to make the top 4 in the group. I believe that Hawks team could win the SC even with Dubnyk in net. Cory Crawford is not an elite goalie but he is arguably better than Niemi as he helped the Hawks to win the SC with a less loaded roster and defense group.

  • bradleypi

    Your description of Irwin sounds exactly like jeff petry. To a tee actually. What I find funny is you classify Irwin as a 6/7 dman and petry is a top 4 dman according to oilersnation.. only guy I’d want off that list is Desjardins for sure.

  • Armchair_Gm

    You dont want people who came here for money, you want guys who are toiling in the minors or.on third lines of.good teams who aren’t getting their chance at ice.time

  • gus1000

    Niemi is a mistake. A career .916 on top 10 teams. It does not matter who we put in net, when Petry is our best defender and people are talking about Detroit making him a 5/6 guy, it shows you the glaring problem the Oilers have.

    They are horrible in their zone, they do not clear the front of the net and they are poor at the breakout. That is not goaltending, that is defense. Eberle, Hall or whomever having to start with the puck below the dot in our own zone is the problem. Grade A scoring chances we always give up, will ruin any save percentage. Playing the way they did in the third period against the Flames would have Patrick Roy up in the stands yelling at people because he didn’t get pulled.

    When our goalies get run over two or three times a game and our pedestrian defense skate to the bench without as a much as a stick whack or glove punch to the face, makes me ask why should the goalies care so much if the rest of the team doesn’t?

  • TKB2677

    When you turn on the TV or go to the rink to watch the Oilers play, anyone have any idea what kind of goaltending the Oilers will get on a game by game basis? There is no way to quantify it but I have to assume that not knowing what kind of goaltending you are going to get has to effect how you play as a team. The Oilers have a lot of problems but having 2 guys in net that you have no clue what kind of game they will give you, makes things worse.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    With MacT at the Wild Canuck game the other night maybe he’s scouting that goalie the wild have Devon somebody or another (can’t remember the last name). Could call him up on July 1 and offer him a contract.

    Or Mact could just be watching the colossal mistake in getting rid of dd last year when the defence was the true reason Dubnyk had sideways numbers.

    Not to interested in the FAs in San Jose.

  • TKB2677

    Wouldn’t do head stands, but guys like Irwin, and Sheppard might be good depth guys, that you would probably pick up in Sept. for cheap.

    Niemi,hard to say what he would bring to the Oilers, playing in front of todays circus.I think he might be an improvement on Scrivens and Fasth, but I would not pay him more than his current Cap hit.

    Any goalie arriving on the Oilers shores, will automatically shave 5 to 10 off his save %.
    [ check out Dubnyk… he didn’t suddenly see the light… he just left the circus behind.]

  • Mason Storm

    D Matt Irwin:

    “…The quibbles are that he isn’t terribly physical, that he’s prone to the odd defensive gaffe and that the underlying numbers are pretty mediocre.”

    a.k.a – Jultz

  • Mason Storm

    A goalie is just trying to plug the hole in the titanic with your finger.
    There needs to be a bunch of buyouts to clear up cap space, then a whole fleet of 3 mill a year support players picked up to build a new team almost top to bottom.

  • gus1000

    As a long time sharks fan, I would say Edmonton would be really smart to pick up Sheppard (though I hope SJ re signs him) he’s come a long way since his nearly career ending injury in Minny. He can lock down the third line role and be stalwart here. He’s a staunch forechecker and provides good energy with the occasional flashy offensive play. (especially with Hertl).

    Desjardins is a steady fourth line center who is excellent in the circle and solid pker. He fights and plays with high energy. I like him but I think his time in SJ is up.

    Irwin is odd. He’s not very good defensively and some nights he’s just overall bad at hockey. Occasionally he pops up and scores some pretty goals because he has a massive shot from the blue line. His slapper rivals any in the league. Unfortunately he just kinda sucks at everything else.

    I’m one sharks fan who wants to keep Niemi. I don’t think stalock is ready for starting status and I feel Niemi has two or three strong seasons left. He plays his best with more work. The more work he gets, the better he becomes. He has the ability to completely steal games (see game against Chicago Saturday night) and the team and fans overall feel confident with him in net. Those playoff struggles, well, the sharks defense is as much or more at fault for that. Last year it was Vlasic getting injured, Braun not being 100%, Boyle was hurt… Niemi is a top 10-15 starter in the league and just a couple years back finished 2nd in vezina voting.

  • gus1000

    UNDERINFLATED FOOTBALLS?

    Why are people upset about the New England Patriots playing one game with under inflated balls? The Edmonton Oilers have played the whole season with soft balls.

  • TKB2677

    Signing an aging goalie on the downside of his career is not the answer, not to mention the 5-6mill, goalies are unpredictable (duby). Mact had it right trying scrivens, fasth, it just didnt work this time so try, try again. Maybe not a popular choice by thr masses but i would do what i had to to get enroth from buff, trade one of scriv, fast. Mact will get roasted if it back fires but you need a goalie that grows with the team. Enroth, remember this comment for next year posers.