Doug Wilson, executive vice president and general manager of the Sharks, used the March 9 trade deadline to add a physical presence to the lineup for the playoff push. Sending a third-round selection in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft to the New York Rangers, the Sharks received agitating left wing Ville Nieminen.
Sharks fans should be familiar with the Finnish power forward. In the 2004 Western Conference Finals, he earned nine penalty minutes and three points (1-2=3) for the Calgary Flames against San Jose.
Nieminen began this season in New York, where he posted 17 points (5-12=17) in 48 games with the Rangers. One of the better defensive forwards in the league, he has notched a +10 plus/minus rating this season.
A fifth-year NHL veteran, this will mark his sixth team in the league and his return to the Western Conference. He previously played for New York, Calgary, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Colorado. He won a Stanley Cup with the Avalanche in 2001 and reached the Finals with the Flames in 2004.
“I really enjoyed playing in this atmosphere and this rink,” said Nieminen. “I always liked the Western Conference. It’s a little bit like coming home.”
Adding to his wealth of big-game experience, 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.
“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.”
He won’t feel like a stranger in the locker room either. Ville was a classmate of Vesa Toskala growing up in Finland. The two have remained close friends throughout their professional careers in North America. Also, he was a Stanley Cup teammate with Scott Parker in Colorado.
The Sharks also sent right wing Niko Dimitrakos to the Philadelphia Flyers for their third-round selection in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. In 153 career games with the Sharks, the University of Maine alum posted 53 points (19-34=53).