Following the signing of Detroit's Jimmy Howard, the San Jose Sharks wasted no time locking up their own goaltender. Antti Niemi signed a four-year contract extension today preventing Nemo from testing the free agent waters this summer.
The move all but spells the end for Sharks backup goaltender Antero Niittymaki, who was signed in the offseason to replace longtime starter Evgeni Nabokov. In a surprise move that was questioned at the time, Sharks GM Doug Wilson couldn't pass on Niemi, who played a huge role in eliminating the Sharks in the Western Conference Finals.
Niemi led the Blackhawks to the franchise's first Stanley Cup title since 1961, defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in six games. Even that didn't keep him in Chicago though, and the Blackhawks walked away from Niemi's 2.75 million dollar contract awarded to him in salary arbitration.
Niemi has played in 42 games as a Shark this season, with a 23-15-3 record and a 2.44 goals against average and five shutouts.
Niemi is riding the wave of a six-game winning streak and is 14-2-1 in his past 17 games, and has the Sharks in first place in the Pacific Division.
"We wanted Antti to remain a San Jose Shark and he wanted to be here," Wilson said via sjsharks.com "Once he got through his expected integration period with our club, Antti's play has been outstanding, and just as important, he has consistently been a great teammate. And like many of his teammates over this past year, he worked with us on a contract that fits within our team structure and enables us to keep our group intact."
The Sharks hope to ride the wave of momentum deep into the playoffs, and Niemi will have a huge role to play in their aspirations.