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Recent RotoWire Articles Featuring Antti Niemi
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
Niemi looked like he was on his way out of the NHL. He put up some awful numbers in stops at Florida and Pittsburgh before salvaging his career in Montreal, which needed a veteran netminder when backup Al Montoya went out with a concussion. The conventional metrics indicate Niemi was very good: he was 7-5-4 with a 2.46 goals-against average and .929 save percentage. On a team with suspect defense and even worse goal-scoring, he gave the Habs a chance to win most nights. The Habs inked the 34-year-old to a one-year deal as a cost-friendly backup for Carey Price but it was a surprising move for a team that's not expected to be a contender. Expect Charlie Lindgren to eventually overtake Niemi for the backup role, unless Canadiens management elects to keep Lindgren in AHL Laval as a means to maximizing the young goalie's appearances.
Niemi’s second season in Dallas was even worse than his first, and his 3.30 GAA and .892 save percentage were the worst in the NHL among goalies that played at least 30 games. While the Stars’ issues getting the puck out of their own end contributed to that abysmal performance, the 33-year-old’s skills seemed to degrade as well, and he looked like a shadow of the player who won 39 games just three years ago with the Sharks. Bought out by Dallas in the offseason, Niemi signed a one-year prove-it deal with Pittsburgh and will head into 2017-18 providing the defending champs with a veteran backup to Matt Murray. If his level of play doesn't pick back up, though, Niemi could find himself looking for work once again.
A long-time starter in San Jose, Niemi got shipped off to Dallas prior to last season to serve as the 1A to fellow Finnish countryman Kari Lehtonen, only to watch his old Sharks mates go to the Stanley Cup Finals while the Stars were bumped in the second round (mostly with Lehtonen in net). Niemi also saw his stats plunge to career-worst levels across the board – .905 save percentage, 2.67 GAA – with the change of scenery casting a harsh light on his declining skills. Stars coach Lindy Ruff will once again deploy his goalies on a hot-hand basis, which will especially damage Niemi’s value in head-to-head formats. The bottom line is that come Opening Night, he’ll be 33 years old and still splitting time on a team that scores a lot, but isn’t known for its defense, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Niemi more or less duplicate last season’s efforts.
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 can’t perform well at the NHL level, will San Jose brass push Niemi to the point of exhaustion? It’s a question worth asking, but not enough of a problem to really hurt Niemi’s 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, he’s 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).