(Ed Note - More on the recent Niemi and Price signings from Jordan, sent literally 5 minutes after I wrote mine, please enjoy)
We’ve been waiting a long, long time for things to finally materialize on the goalie carousel. We always wonder which NHL-caliber goaltenders will be out of a job next. In the last few years, we’ve seen Manny Fernandez, Jose Theodore, Cristobal Huet, among others, find themselves the odd men out.
Capable goaltenders, of course, but just not good enough for the upcoming year, or a certain team’s vision.
As far as we know, the goaltending carousel has stopped spinning with two signings today, and both signees have had interesting rollercoaster rides. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
The first signing that happened today was a one year, $2 million contract with the San Jose Sharks. …And just when Antero Niittymaki had a clear-cut number one goaltending job in front of him, GM Doug Wilson brought in a sort of stray cat goalie that was denied a job by the Chicago Blackhawks earlier this summer through arbitration.
I have my own opinions on how the Hawks handled that situation, but I digress…
Niemi may have won the Stanley Cup in his last run through the playoffs, technically as a rookie, but only on a few occasions did Niemi have to come up big. The Finn certainly had a tremendously deep and skilled team in front of him that could pretty much score at will and make every game a close one.
That’s not to say he’s not a capable goaltender—after all, he saved the Hawks’ Cup by absolutely stoning Jeff Carter in the dying minutes of the 3rd period in game six. But the Sharks made a low-risk deal that just may frustrate Niittymaki a fair amount.
With a sub-par team in front of him, Antero Niittymaki was fantastic for the Lightning. He went 21-18-5 (.909 SV% 2.87 GAA). With a skilled team and solid defense in front of Niittymaki, a very solid and prototypical butterfly goalie, his stats will be even better. He may have positional issues when he challenges shooters and gets burnt, but no goalie’s perfect, right?
I feel as if the Sharks should have given Tomas Greiss one more shot. He was pretty good for Germany’s cause in the Olympics, and he showed he could play with the best of them. But since the Niemi signing was low-risk and only one year in length, I suppose the Sharks will benefit anyway.
As for Carey Price, he signed a two-year deal with the Montreal Canadiens, reportedly worth $5.5 million, according to RDS. A bit of an overpayment in my eyes, and I’ll explain.
Price has been so wrongly touted as the next St. Patrick in net. He showed signs of brilliance when he was the goaltender for the Hamilton Bulldogs. He captured a Calder Cup, and he had all of Montreal gazing with bated breath at what he could do. Price is a huge dude, and he covers up a lot of net. I remember several occasions where the Flyers just couldn’t score against him because of his net coverage.
But he is not a mentally mature goaltender, by any stretch. He doesn’t react positively to extreme adversity, especially the amount he gets in La Belle Provence. He had an interesting set of statistics this year, finding himself a fair amount below .500 (13-20-5) but having a save percentage over 91%, and a GAA of 2.77.
In short, he’s good, but not great. He has a decided weakness low-glove, and several teams exploit that weakness when they have the chance. It’ll take a few years to show what he can really do, as he is only 23 years old.
To be honest, I’m not sure I like how the Habs dealt with Jaro Halak either…I mean, he put on an absolutely legendary performance this past Spring, and GM Pierre Gauthier saw it fit to deal that away…oh well, that’s how the goalie carousel spins.
Hockey players will always say “that’s business”. And they are most certainly right.