One of the many, many pressing concerns facing the Sharks heading into the trade deadline and beyond is the question of who's going to be their starting goaltender next season and into the future. Antti Niemi is an impending unrestricted free agent who the team likely would have signed to a contract extension by now if he were in their future plans and Alex Stalock has fallen flat this season in the face of an opportunity to usurp Niemi that was handed to him on a silver platter. Neither goalie is likely to be San Jose's #1 to start the 2015-16 season but it's hard to predict who will be.
Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman was on Edmonton radio today discussing that very subject and believes the Sharks will be in the market for a young netminder leading up to Monday's trade deadline and into the offseason. Via Nichols On Hockey:
I think they’re looking for a 25-year-old goalie who can play for a few years for them. They’re going to let Niemi’s contract run out. Stalock they just don’t believe has grabbed the net. I think they’re in the market for a guy who can play net for them for a few years. I would guess that’s as high on their list of things to do as anything else.
There aren't many available goalies who are exactly 25, save for mediocre Blackhawks third-stringer Antti Raanta and talented Canucks third-stringer Jacob Markstrom, but there are quite a few 26-year-olds who could make sense as either the Sharks' undisputed starter or one-half of a platoon with Stalock. Two of them, Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer, are currently employed by the Maple Leafs. With a .917 SV% in 159 career NHL appearances to go along with excellent AHL numbers, Bernier is clearly the superior option but acquiring his RFA rights will probably be expensive if the Leafs are even willing to deal their starter.
Michal Neuvirth, the 26-year-old Sabres starter who becomes an unrestricted free agent in July, doesn't have Bernier's pedigree but at least he wouldn't cost assets to acquire. Playing for possibly the worst non-expansion team in NHL history, the Czech native has compiled an unbelievable .934 even-strength save percentage this season and has better 5-on-5 numbers (though admittedly in a smaller sample size) over the past three seasons than Niemi, Semyon Varlamov, Corey Crawford and Jonathan Quick. Jhonas Enroth's place on that list isn't quite as impressive but the 26-year-old is another impending UFA who shouldn't be too expensive to sign. Neither goalie is a sure thing but rolling the dice on a couple of low-risk, potentially high-reward options is a good way to make the inherent uncertainty of the goaltending market work in your favor. It'll be interesting to see what the Sharks end up doing here.