Dallas now has the opportunity to talk Niemi into a contract ahead of July 1, at which point he’ll become an unrestricted free agent and will test the open market.
“Antti is a proven goaltender who has played and succeeded at the highest levels,” Stars general manager Jim Nill said. “He’s one of the hardest-working goalies out there, and we look forward to working towards an agreement.”
The Stars still technically have Kari Lehtonen in as the starter, but he’s coming off his worst season ever and could be moved. He posted a .903 save percentage last season with a 2.94 goals against average. He hasn’t played that poorly since his rookie season in 2005-2006.
The other option is that Dallas wants a wealth of experience in goal for the upcoming season, which is possible but remote.
Niemi is coming off five seasons with the Sharks after his tenure in Chicago landed him a Cup in 2010. He’s been a steady presence in San Jose and has played in 296 games since joining the Sharks, appearing in at least 60 games in his first four full seasons with the team. In 2012-2013, he played in “just” 43 games. Thanks, lockout.
The point here is that Niemi can play some serious games and that could spell out the future for the Stars, if they can get a deal inked. They surely have some indication that a deal can be done, but they didn’t exactly give up the moon for his rights either.
San Jose, meanwhile, is left with a kind of meagre goalie group. Alex Stalock, Troy Grosenick and Joel Rumpel are the only netminders under contract and Cam Talbot is off the table. Stalock and Grosenick have a combined 39 career NHL starts. That should send general manager Doug Wilson to market – and soon.