The Montreal Canadiens have decided that Antti Niemi deserves another chance at backing up Carey Price, and have re-signed the veteran goaltender to a one-year one-way contract worth $950K. Niemi was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, but is still receiving a salary from the Dallas Stars after being bought out. He’ll get $1.5MM from the Stars in 2018-19.
It was an interesting year to say the least for Niemi, as he was first bought out by the Stars only to sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins as a backup to Matt Murray. That experiment lasted all of three games, before spending time with the Florida Panthers and then eventually landing with Montreal. His last stop with the Canadiens turned out to be an important one, as Niemi found his game and actually posted the highest save percentage of his career at .929 through 19 games. Those numbers were certainly good enough for an NHL backup, especially one that was forced into heavy duty as injuries robbed Price of most of his season.
The question will be if he can continue to play at that level, but the Canadiens have a backup plan just in case. Charlie Lindgren was re-signed for three years and appears to be ready for NHL duty. The 24-year old goaltender impressed in his short time with Montreal, though he struggled along with the rest of the Laval Rocket in the AHL. Lindgren is also on a one-way deal, but remains waiver exempt for this season and will likely now start in the AHL until something happens with the Canadiens situation. If Price suffers another injury, or Niemi fails to impress, you can be sure Lindgren will get a quick call.
Regardless, this is a nice contract for the 34-year old Niemi who looked like he might be out of hockey a year ago. Instead, he’ll try to show that he can be a solid backup for another few years before retiring as a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender.