Antti Niemi will look to turn his career around as the recently bough-out goalie will move from expensive split starter, making $4.5MM with the Dallas Stars, to cheap veteran backup, making just $700K for the reigning Stanley Cup champs, according to a team release. The Penguins lacked an experienced substitute for Marc-Andre Fleury, which the desperately need for the talented, but oft-injured Matt Murray, and they hope Niemi can fit the bill and improve upon his ghastly .892 save percentage in 2016-17.
Niemi is an interesting story, as an undrafted goaltender who took the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup as a rookie, only to go to San Jose and struggle to get his team deep in the playoffs. Now, bought out by the Stars he’ll try to get back to the Finals with the team whose won the last two.
For the Penguins, watching Fleury go was hard not just because of his strong ties to the team and community, but also because of the stellar goaltending he’s given them for so long. Niemi is coming off a year in which he registered an .892 save percentage, and though some of that might be due to the weak team in Dallas, it’ll have to bounce back or he’ll find himself out of the league. That number isn’t acceptable by any NHL goaltender, much less one on a team hoping to compete.