The San Jose Mercury News had rare off-season hockey coverage Tuesday, May 20: Harri Sateri signed with the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) of Russia. He was with the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate of the San Jose Sharks last season.
Wait, what? Who? More to the point, why should anyone care?
Addressing them in order, the restricted free agent chose to go closer to his Finnish home and probably play better competition over an uncertain future with the Sharks. He made a strong bid for the backup role on the 2013-14 NHL roster, but was out-played by his counterpart in Worcester as the season wore on.
As for why anyone would care, there may be no elite regular-season team in the NHL with more of an uncertain goalie situation than San Jose. They ended the season with two potential stars and two prospects with the potential to play at the highest level.
However, one of each was ending the last year of their deal and the other two are entering their final season. Now the only one left under contract for the 2014-15 NHL season might be on his way out the door before that season is over.
It was quite possible Sateri could have won a backup job with the 2014-15 Sharks. He also could have been the backup in the AHL, which might have meant not being re-signed next season. In the KHL, he should get consistent action against competition as good as can be found outside the NHL.
That is why David Pollack reported in the article that general manager Doug Wilson understood the decision and looked at it as an opportunity for the 2008 fourth-round pick. Nearing 25-years old, he has to start consistently getting that soon if he is going to remain a good prospect. The KHL might prepare him to take over a role at the NHL level as the position changes over the next several months for the team that still retains his rights.
From San Jose’s perspective for the 2014-15 NHL season, Troy Grosenick is ready for the full-time Worcester job and J.P. Anderson can probably handle a backup AHL role. The rest of the depth could be filled with new draft picks and lower-level prospects if the two NHL roles can be adequately manned.
With Sateri gone, there is no player in the system with any chance of earning meaningful playing time in the 2014-15 NHL season. That means the Sharks must either re-sign Alex Stalock or sign another goalie to have a complete roster. Trading Antti Niemi is also not off the table, meaning neither goalie role is set.
San Jose could have two totally new goalies next season or the same two used in the 2013-14 NHL season. The one that most people are interested in is the starter. Speculation has included some big names: SFGate reported Monday that Ryan Miller is among the possibilities, listing also Jonas Hiller and five other potential starters on the free agent market this summer.
The number of choices in net for the Sharks is longer than five, but xystwhat.com lists the five that are most likely to be their starter by the time they reach their 11th consecutive Stanley Cup playoffs, and why they made the list…