The San Jose Sharks acquired some help for the playoff run Wednesday afternoon when they obtained Ville Nieminen from the New York Rangers in exchange for a 2006 third round selection.
Nieminen, a six-foot-one, 210-pound left wing, has played for Colorado, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Calgary and the Rangers. The Tampere, Finland native won a Stanley Cup with the Avalanche in 2001 and reached with Finals with the Flames in 2004.
In 48 contests with New York, Nieminen has posted five goals, 12 assists, is a +10 and has made a name for himself as one of the better defensive forwards in the NHL.
“Ville is an energy player who is gritty and hard to play against,” said Wilson. “He has provided a spark on every team he’s played on and plays big in important games, whether it’s the Olympics or the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He’s a player you hate to play against but love to have on your team.”
Nieminen has represented Finland internationally in the Olympics (2006, 2002), World Cup of Hockey (2004) and at the World Junior Championships (1997). At the recently concluded 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, Nieminen helped Finland win a silver medal.
While San Jose’s penalty killing has improved as of late, Nieminen will be a plus to the unit.
“He comes from a top-five penalty killing team,” said Wilson.
Nieminen is under contract for the 2006-07 season with a salary reported by the NHLPA to be $700,000.
“I’ve been looking at him for a while,” said Wilson. “We considered signing him this summer.”
He has some familiarity with the Sharks roster, having not only faced them in the 2004 Western Conference Finals, but he was a classmate of Vesa Toskala growing up in Finland and was a Stanley Cup teammate with Scott Parker in Colorado.
Nieminen is expected to arrive in San Jose Wednesday evening and be in the lineup tomorrow night against Edmonton. Wilson hopes that the trade will provide an infusion of energy for his club during the drive for the postseason.
“Sometimes you need a spark to get going,” said Wilson. “Ville is that type of spark.”
Nieminen was originally selected in the third round (78th overall) by Colorado in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. During his career, Nieminen has posted 108 points (44 goals, 64 assists) in 319 NHL games.
Nieminen has played in 47 NHL playoff games, collecting 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists).
The Sharks play host to Edmonton Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at HP Pavilion and tickets are still available at the HP Pavilion Box Office and at www.ticketmaster.com.
The game will be aired on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.