The NHL's goaltending merry-go-round is in high-gear at the 2015 Draft. Robin Lehner, Eddie Lack, Anton Khudobin, Cam Talbot, and now Antti Niemi- Whose rights have been acquired by the Dallas Stars.
Fans carried a torch for the Cam Talbot rumors into the weekend but the Rangers, who were asking much, finally yielded in the second round, accepting the Edmonton Oilers offer of three picks later today.
57, 79 & 184 to NYR. EDM also gets 209 with Talbot.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) June 27, 2015
A steep price for one who values draft picks as does Jim Nill, and the Stars likely knew they were out of that market before any of us did.
So you've been delivered Antti Niemi, Dallas Stars fan- Or rather a three-day sales job aimed at him. That's where this is a bit of a gamble on the Stars' part, albeit only for a seventh-round pick.
What is the sales pitch?
Kari Lehtonen's struggles last season are well known, as as been his immense workload owing to organizational weakness at the position over the last several years. The common thought blooming on social media is that he'll be the backup, but is that enough to convince a 31-year old UFA who's looking for, possibly, his last truly meaty NHL contract to come to a team that didn't make the playoffs last season?
Or are the Stars after more of a 1A/1B situation with the two Finns in net? Could Kari Lehtonen's confidence handle the swings that situation would bring? We've seen younger tandems in recent years (look at the Ducks, the Jets) deal with that but with two veteran guys it has a different feel.
Throw in a new goaltending coach and you've got a situation with an awful lot of unknowns.
Scenario three? The Stars intend on Niemi being their #1 moving forward- Which one would imagine involving some manner of trade and salary retention before it was all said and done on Kari Lehtonen's part.
That would be a gamble all its own. What if Niemi doesn't see himself in Dallas? What if he would rather field a whole host of offers on July 1, rather than limit himself to what the Stars have to say? (and why wouldn't you...)
Where would that leave Kari Lehtonen's mental state after what would essentially boil down to a failed usurping/coup?
That having been said, the Stars were allowed to speak with Niemi in the days leading up to the draft, so the hope has to be that there was mutual interest at least implied at some point along the way before pulling the trigger.
Indeed, I cannot even get through putting some thoughts down without news coming out to this effect:
Stars GM Jim Nill says he's close on a new deal for newly acquired, and pending UFA goalie Antti Niemi. Should get done, he says— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) June 27, 2015
"Kari is a legitimate No. 1 goalie," Nill told Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News. "I really believe the NHL has become a two-goalie system, and we just need to find another good goalie."
Two goaltenders that can win hockey games on a consistent basis would be a huge upgrade over recent seasons- But all those failures have now brought Dallas to the brink of committing upward of $10 million in cap-hit to achieving it. Another inherent risk in this apparent strategy.
The #stars intend to go with a Niemi-Lehtonen tandem next season.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) June 27, 2015
If this the case, the Stars have two sometimes inconsistent 31-year old Finnish netminders. The hope has to be simply that their inconsistent periods don't coincide. If that's the case, the Stars have upgraded at this position.
Next up- Get help in front of them to make their jobs that much easier.
Another Update here from the only occasionally reliable Ken Campbell @ THN:
Dallas already close to a a two- or three-year deal with Antti Niemi in the neighborhood of $4 million a year.— Ken Campbell (@THNKenCampbell) June 27, 2015