With about 36 hours remaining before the start of unrestricted free agency, the Dallas Stars have reportedly signed goaltender Antti Niemi to a three-year contract with a cap hit of $4.5 million per season.
Elliotte Friedman was the first with the confirmation.
DAL signs Niemi three years, $4.5M AAV.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) June 29, 2015
Mike Heika has the confirmation
As reported by Elliotte Friedman, Niemi gets 3 years at an average of $4.5 million. Lehtonen has three years left at $6.0, $.6.0, $5.0— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) June 29, 2015
That seems like an awful lot of money tied up at goalie over the next three years, with the Stars paying $10.4 million for the combination of Niemi and incumbent starter Kari Lehtonen. But the Stars are far from cap squeezed either of the next two seasons, and even a possible extension for Alex Goligoski next season and the definite extension offered to Jamie Benn the year after that won't push them tight against the cap.
With this signing and with just two RFAs remaining to sign to fill out a roster, the Stars have approximately $9 million in cap space, more if Valeri Nichushkin doesn't hit all his bonuses. That's plenty to bring in a $2-$3 million forward to fill out the lineup and possibly upgrade the defense via trade or free agency.
Niemi, who was coming off a four-year deal with the San Jose Sharks worth an average of $3.8 million per season, was acquired by the Stars at the draft for a seventh-round pick. He had a 2.59 GAA and 0.914 save percentage in his final season in San Jose in 61 games played, both far better numbers than Lehtonen's with the Stars.
Dallas management has made it clear they consider this a platoon situation for both goalies at this point, similar to what the Calgary Flames went with last season.
Here's the official release from the team:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has signed goaltender Antti Niemi to a three-year contract extension. The Stars acquired Niemi in a trade on June 25 from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a seventh round selection (193rd overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft. Per club policy, terms of the signing were not disclosed.
"We acquired Antti's rights with the expectation to get him signed and we're thrilled to have come to an agreement this quickly," Nill said. "This gives us two upper-echelon goaltenders and the quality of depth at that position will provide us a great chance to win on a nightly basis."
Niemi, 31, posted a 31-23-7 record with a .914 save percentage, a 2.59 goals against average and five shutouts with San Jose last season. He spent the last five seasons in San Jose, where his 163 wins over that span were tied for the second-most in the League with Carey Price, trailing only Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury.
In his NHL career with San Jose and Chicago, Niemi has a 190-100-40 regular season record with a 2.39 goals against average, a .916 save percentage and 32 shutouts. He finished third in the Vezina Trophy voting during the 2012-13 season, where he posted a 24-12-6 record with a .924 save percentage and 2.16 goals against average.
Appearing in the postseason five times, he boasts a 35-26 record with a .907 save percentage and a 2.74 goals against average in the playoffs. He won the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010, winning all 16 games for them, and returned to the Western Conference Final with San Jose in 2011.
Internationally, Niemi represented Finland at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia and won a Bronze Medal.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound native of Vantaa, Finland went undrafted and was originally signed by Chicago as a free agent on May 5, 2008. He was signed as a free agent by San Jose on Sept. 2, 2010.