33-Year-Old Goalie – Dallas Stars
Antti Niemi Contract Information:
Signed a three-year, $13.5 million contract with the Sharks in June 2015.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff defended his strategy of giving Niemi and Kari Lehtonen equal playing time in 2015-16, the Dallas Morning News reports.
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Antti Niemi: Past News Updates ( ▲ View most recent update )
RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
Signed to a three-year contract by the Stars during the offseason, Niemi heads to Texas after spending five seasons with the Sharks. The Finnish netminder played at least 60 games in each of his four full seasons with San Jose (excluding the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season), reaching the 30-win plateau each time. Despite that quality production, Niemi's path to a full-time starting role is as muddled as it's ever been, as he'll be joined in the Dallas net by fellow countryman Kari Lehtonen, the team's longtime No. 1. Both netminders are coming off down years, though Lehtonen's rate stats (2.94 GAA, .903 save percentage) were far uglier than Niemi's. It's quite likely that the two goalies will open the season in a timeshare, with the hope that a reduced starting load for both established workhorses results in better per-game numbers. If that plan fails, coach Lindy Ruff could simply ride the hot hand, as both Niemi and Lehtonen are still capable of stringing together multiple strong performances in a row, even as their careers seem to be entering the decline phase. That being said, it's tough to peg which goalie may ultimately claim the larger portion of the duties -- or if anything more than a 50-50 distribution will even come about -- making Niemi a dangerous target as a lead goalie for any fantasy roster.
Niemi, despite his atypical style, remains a solid option for your fantasy team...that is, if he keeps his starting gig. Last season, he posted a very respectable .913 save percentage, 2.39 goals against average, and 39 wins, the latter of which was second-best in the NHL. It should be noted, however, that there was a bit of a late-season collapse that brought those ratios down a notch. Despite a goalie controversy waiting for him in camp with the ascendent Alex Stalock pushing for a starting gig, it's still Niemi's job to lose. He's a veteran presence and only one season removed from being a Vezina finalist and playing the most minutes of any netminder in the league. But you'd be wise to hitch your fantasy wagon to both men, just in case.
You can't ride a goalie much harder than San Jose rode Niemi last year -- he played in 43 of the team's 48 regular-season starts and was the man of the hour through the postseason. Niemi's 24-12-6 record last year with a 2.16 GAA and a .924 save percentage ought to silence any critics who have questioned his ability to take a larger workload for a team. Despite his often derided, atypical style of goaltending, he led the league with 24 wins. And only Ondrej Pavalec played more games than Niemi's 43. And Niemi led the NHL in time on ice, was third overall in saves, was one removed from the league lead with four shutouts, was 11th in goals-against average and seventh in save percentage. Wow -- he handled the workload and then some. And his numbers, while many were career bests, weren't that far off his usual mark. Now here's the but and it's a biggie. There's no way he can maintain that type of workload over a full season and still be fresh for a long playoff run. And new back-up goalie Alex Stalock is coming off a near career-threatening injury not all that long ago. If Stalock canít perform well at the NHL level, will San Jose brass push Niemi to the point of exhaustion? Itís a question worth asking, but not enough of a problem to really hurt Niemiís fantasy value right now. Niemi should be near the top -- or at the top -- of the list of goaltenders on your draft list. Not only is he playing more than most tenders, heís playing better.
Is Niemi the Rodney Dangerfield of fantasy goalies? He won a Stanley Cup with Chicago, but the team cut him loose following an arbitration battle. Yet, all he's done in San Jose is go 69-40-15 with 12 shutouts and a great goals-against average and save percentage. But, questions still remain about Niemi's workload and whether he can truly carry an NHL team. So what's the truth? His butterfly is tidy and he covers the bottom of the net well. Sure, he still struggles with rebounds and sometimes overplays the puck. However, he's poised, sneakily athletic and surprisingly quick, and he's a real battler -- he's not really going to pinch many stinkers on you. Still, we can think of at least 15 guys we'd take ahead of him in a standard, single-year draft, so that means he shouldn't be your top guy in a 12-team league, but Niemi makes an outstanding number two netminder in a two-goalie league.
A few months after his Stanley Cup win with the Blackhawks, Niemi brought his talents to the Bay Area by signing a one-year, $2 million contract with the Sharks. It was a curious move, as the team had already signed fellow Finnish netminder, Antero Niittymaki, to a two-year contract earlier in the offseason. What started as an evenly distributed workload eventually rolled in Niemi's favor as his fellow countryman sustained a groin injury in January that opened the door for Niemi to become the No. 1 choice for starts. Niemi never looked back and remained the undisputed starter through the end of the postseason. His numbers were rock solid in the end, as he posted a 35-18-6 record, 2.38 goals-against average, .920 save percentage and six shutouts. The team re-upped with Niemi in March of 2011, extending his contract for four years and $15.2 million. There is no denying Niemi's importance to the Sharks, and fantasy owners should be happy with his gaudy win totals and peripheral stats for years to come.
2009-10 was a busy year for Niemi. He stole the starting job away from Cristobal Huet, led his team to a Stanley Cup victory, and eventually was released from the Blackhawks, who desperately needed to clear cap space after an arbitrator awarded Niemi a $2.75 million contract for the 2010-11 season. The Sharks couldn't resist signing Niemi, but fantasy owners shouldn't jump as quickly for his services, as Team Teal now has three capable netminders fighting for minutes between the pipes: Niemi, Thomas Greiss and Antero Niittymaki. It's a boom or bust year for Niemi.
It was his first season in the United States and he definitely showed some potential. The problem though is that starter Crisobal Huet has a big contract. Huet will get plenty of opportunities, but an injury or even poor play may open the door for Niemi this season. Niemi's arrival is bad news for Corey Crawford who was considered the top netminding prospect for the Hawks before Niemi entered the pictured last year. Niemi showed signs last year of being a future answer in Chicago with a .913 save percentage and 2.43 GAA in 38 starts for Rockford (AHL).