According to Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer and HockeyBuzz blogger Tim Panaccio, the Philadelphia Flyers are expected to re-sign goaltender Antero Niittymaki this weekend.
Niity will serve as a back-up to incumbent Martin Biron, acquired at the trade deadline from Buffalo for a 2nd round draft pick.
The MVP of the 2006 Olympics for the silver medal-winning Finnish team, Niittymaki's career in Philadelphia has been a tumultuous one.
Antero was drafted 168th overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, but stayed in Finland until the beginning of 2001, because of military obligations. His stock began to rise due to his stellar play for the Philadelphia Phantoms in the American Hockey League (AHL). Niity led the Phantoms to the Calder Cup in 2005, while earning the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy for MVP in the Calder Cup playoffs.
Niittymaki also became the first ever goalie to score an overtime goal in North American pro-hockey history, scoring a game-winning, empty net, overtime, shorthanded, unassisted goal on April 11, 2004 versus the Hershey Bears.
He started the 2005-06 season with the Flyers as Robert Esche's back-up. When Esche got hurt, Antero was thrust into the starting role. He played in seventeen straight games, while Esche was out, and recorded his first career NHL shutout.
The 2006-07 season for Niittymaki was marred by injury and inconsistency. He suffered a torn labrum in his left hip during training camp and opted to wait until this off-season to have surgery to correct it - took cortisone shots throughout the season.
Teams also seemed to have Antero figured out. They figured out that he would squat into his butterfly stance very early when the opposition was in the offensive zone, and he was constantly being beaten up high with shots.
Perhaps the injury had something to do with his play, or perhaps he had a confidence issue, but Niittymaki clearly did not progress this season as the Flyers coaching staff had hoped.
Perhaps he can right his ship in 2007-08. The Flyers will need him to if anything were to happen to Martin Biron.