The housecleaning has begun for the San Jose Sharks after their most disappointing season in some time. Whether or not goaltender Antti Niemi will be a part of it has yet to be determined.
The Sharks usually wait until the postseason to break the hearts of their fans. But in 2014-15, they spared their faithful the pain and failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2002-03.
Instead of waiting to be fired for the team’s shortcomings, Todd McLellan reached a mutual agreement with San Jose to end their relationship. The onus now falls on Peter DeBoer, who was named the Sharks’ new coach on May 28 after being relieved of similar duties by the New Jersey Devils in late December.
Doug Wilson started shaping the club’s roster for DeBoer on Friday, announcing veteran defenseman Scott Hannan and the towering John Scott would not be re-signed. The general manager also placed forward Adam Burish on waivers and plans to buy out the final season of his four-year contract.
Hannan began his career with the Sharks and also may have ended it with them. The 36-year-old appeared in 58 games this past season, recording two goals and seven assists.
The 6-foot-8 Scott had a career year with San Jose, registering three goals and four points in 38 games after collecting two and six over his first 236 NHL contests. The 32-year-old, who has remained in the league due to his fighting ability, also recorded 87 penalty minutes.
Burish’s stint with the Sharks after signing a four-year, $7.4 million contract was less than stellar. The 32-year-old was besieged by injuries and notched only two goals and four assists in 81 games over three campaigns.
“Whether it was injuries or whatever, it just didn’t work,” Wilson told reporters after making the decision on Burish.
The general manager believed he had found the goaltender who could lead San Jose to a championship when he signed Niemi, who inked a one-year, $2 million contract in September of 2010. The Finn had just helped Chicago capture the Stanley Cup three months earlier and was awarded a $2.75 million payday in arbitration, a deal from which the Blackhawks walked away.
Niemi began his first season in San Jose in a platoon with Antero Niittymaki but eventually took over the starting job and earned himself a four-year extension worth $15.2 million. The 31-year-old posted a career-high 39 victories in 2013-14 but has been unable to get the Sharks past the Western Conference Final.
“He’s a highly competitive guy that never points fingers,” Wilson said of the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent. “Would he tell you that he wished he had some better games? Yeah, that’s just his nature. But to me, it was as a group, and we did not play well as a group.”
Wilson did not rule out re-signing Niemi, who was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy in 2013. But with netminders such as Cam Talbot of the New York Rangers, Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner of the Ottawa Senators and Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom of the Vancouver Canucks apparently available via trade, Niemi likely will be looking for a new address when the free-agent signing period begins.