Antti Niemi: The Five Goalies Whose Jobs He May Steal
Now that Antti Niemi is an unrestricted free agent, many teams have the chance to add a quality goaltender to their roster.
Coming off a season with a 2.25 goals against average, a 9.12 save percentage, and a Stanley Cup, Niemi has potential to be a vital piece in many GMs' offseason plans.
While many Chicago fans spurn Niemi for being greedy, remember that Niemi did not sign Cristobal Huet for $5 million-plus a year. Niemi is being greedy by going to arbitration; if the Hawks waived Huet, they could have easily kept Niemi.
So who is greedier: the player who is seeking compensation for his efforts that helped win the franchise a Stanley Cup, or the team who won't pay an extra million for the goalie that helped get them there?
(Note: According to capgeek.com, Huet is on the non-active roster for Chicago, so it appears they may waive/get rid of Huet anyway.)
Speaking of greedy, let us take a look into what goaltenders may be left scrambling to keep the crease to themselves this season.
The Price Ain't Right
The price ain't right, and it is just that simple. According to reports, Carey Price is asking for upwards of $3 million to play for the Canadiens in the upcoming season.
It is safe to say this isn't going to occur, unless the city of Montreal feels they haven't had a good old riot recently enough. Price could be writing his own one-way ticket out of la Belle Provence.
With over $4 million left in cap space, the Canadiens have more than enough room to accommodate the salary demands of Nieme. Factor in Alex Auld waiting in the wings, and Price could be saying au revoir to the Habs, and Auld could be saying bonjour to Niemi.
N & N
The San Jose Sharks, the perennial contenders who can never seem to take it to the next level and to Lord Stanley's mug. With the departure of Evgeni Nabokov, the Sharks are looking for a goalie with some pedigree.
With the signing of Antero Niittymaki, the Sharks get a veteran goaltender that can play at the NHL level. The only problem is that Niittymaki has never succeeded at this level.
In six seasons of NHL hockey, Niittymaki has never been under a 2.76 goals against average or had over a .912 save percentage. Niittymaki has a career high of 23 wins and has only had two seasons with 20-plus wins. Not exactly the stud-like numbers the Sharks need.
Enter Niemi, coming off a Stanley Cup win and most likely the Sharks' last hope to catch the silverware they have been chasing. The Sharks have the cap space; the only thing left to see is if their GM has the initiative.
Another option, although unlikely, would be the Philadelphia Flyers taking a run at Niemi to solidify the Flyers' goaltending for the upcoming season.
Clearly any deal made by the Flyers would have to be a prelude to trading one of their goaltenders.
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren recently stated that he was fine with the goaltending and wasn't actively looking to improve it.
This is in no way ruling out the possibility of an addition, and it wouldn't be the first time that the two teams in the Stanley Cup Final swap goalies (Ty Conklin to Detroit Red Wings).
While this is highly unlikely, imagine a Flyers team with no question mark around goaltending. That could finally push them just over the cusp.
The Washington Capitals are another a team looking to add the missing piece to put together a strong playoff run.
The Capitals currently have two goaltenders in the running to be their No. 1 starter. The only problem is that neither has had any great success at the NHL level.
The Capitals would pick up a goaltender with championship experience that would cost them nothing but cap space. With over $5 million in cap space, the Capitals could sign Niemi and wait to see what they want to do with their other goalies.
A Semyon Varlamov-Antti Niemi tandem could just see the Capitals to the promised land.
The LA Kings have been looking to make big moves all summer. The Kings were close to signing Ilya Kovalchuk but ultimately couldn't get him signed. Niemi offers LA the chance to make a big splash this offseason.
With Jon Quick signed for three years at $1.8 million, the Kings could potentially add Niemi for around $3 million and still have a manageable cap hit when it comes to their goaltenders.
Having a tandem of Quick and Niemi could do nothing but make the Kings stronger, as the more games Quick plays, the worse his numbers become. The Kings could even ship Quick to another team looking for some help in the goaltending department, such as the Canadiens, if the Carey Price issue doesn't get resolved.
Niemi would give the Kings some championship power and may even accomplish a feat that the Great One himself could not: bringing a Cup to LA.
A Swift Change
It remains to be seen where Antti Niemi will land. The recent trend in the NHL suggests that teams are trying to go the route of having cheap, low-maintenance goalies.
This is a typical copycat scenario we see after every Cup Final. All the teams in the league look at the champions and try to emulate their model. It happened with Anaheim (big, strong, and skilled), and it happened with Detroit, Pittsburgh, and now Chicago.
In Niemi's case, teams are going to speak with their wallets and dreams in hopes that he matches their ultimate blueprint—that blueprint being whatever will lead them to Lord Stanley's Cup.