35-Year-Old Goalie – Free Agent
Antero Niittymaki Contract Information:
Niittymaki signed a one-year contract with Finnish team Turku in August of 2012.
Niittymaki signed a one-year contract with Finnish team TPS Turku, NHL.com reports.
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RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
No one could have blamed Niittymaki if he thought he was going to end up as Team Teal's top goalie after inking a two-year contract with the Sharks last summer. But Antti Niemi, fresh off a Stanley Cup-winning season with Chicago, signed on with the club in September and formed a Finnish goalie tandem with Niittymaki, the more experienced of the two tenders. Niittymaki produced a 1.87 goals-against average in October, and held his own in the timeshare role before a groin/lower body injury that he sustained in January lingered and ended up sidelining him for most of the season's second half. While he has proven to be an adequate fill-in option when necessary, it's clear that Niittymaki is a secondary option for starts between the pipes for the Cup deprived Teal.
By several accounts, Niittymaki is in an interesting situation as he prepares for his seventh NHL season. While he is set to inherit a favorable role as a puck-stopper for a very potent offense, there is a certain degree of pressure in succeeding Evgeni Nabokov, who spent a decade denying shots for the Cup-shy Sharks. Undoubtedly, Niittymaki will find wins relatively easy to come by now that he's donning teal, but be forewarned that any significant rough patch by Niittymaki could prompt the Sharks to send young backup Thomas Greiss or Antti Niemi between the pipes.
Niittymaki's hips are apparently OK heading into this season. But despite his talents, he's far too injury-prone to be a starter. He does play well in spurts but he's best considered a handcuff to Mike Smith who himself is coming off injury.
Niittymaki is the clear backup to Martin Biron as he enters his fifth NHL season. After a disastrous 2006-2007 season, when he was the Flyersí starting goaltender, Niittymaki rebounded last year serving as Bironís backup after Biron was acquired from the Sabres. He only started 23 games, but posted a modest 12-9-2 record with a mediocre 2.91 GAA. He underwent hip surgery in September, but should return in late October or early November. Donít expect to see Niittymaki get selected in fantasy drafts as he is not worth drafting except for in extremely deep leagues where backup goalies may hold value.
The Finn struggled last season, going 9-29-9 with a 3.38 goals-against average and .894 save percentage in 52 games with Philadelphia. In three seasons with the Flyers, Niittymaki has a 35-44-15 record and a 3.12 goals-against average in 101 career games. If he stays healthy he'll be a dependable back up to Martin Biron.
Niitymakki and Robert Esche nearly split the games right down middle for the Flyers last season. There's no reason to think this year will be any different. If Niittymaki can pull away with the starting job for good, he will be a solid fantasy goalie.
The backup to Robert Esche, his value would skyrocket if given the chance to start.