It will be a question that is asked all season long. What is Antti Niemi going to get paid? That is the $64,000 question. Please remember that Cory Schneider and Corey Crawford are in the $6 million a year bracket. Sergei Bobrovsky and Ben Bishop are in the same bracket relatively speaking.
Niemi did win a Stanley Cup in Chicago (2010) and has been pretty good in San Jose. Some will argue that last year was a bit of a turning point in the wrong direction. There is even a chance that Alex Stalock may play more games. Let’s take a quick four point look at why Niemi does not deserve the millions.
Four For The Road
1. Niemi was a pretty sizable reason for that 3-0 collapse last season.
Whether Antti Niemi wants to admit it or not, one of the significant reasons why San Jose went south in the series against Los Angeles was indeed himself. The numbers do not lie. He was 3-3 with a 3.74 GAA and .884 save percentage. Yes the stats were skewed a bit in the Western Conference but that save percentage was ugly in every sense. Niemi has had a nagging pattern of not performing well for the Sharks. Three of his four playoffs in San Jose featured a negative goals saved above average. Two of the years were pretty amplified in the negative direction. A -4.5 in just six starts is a very bad and ominous sign.
2. Which Niemi are you going to get?
This is another question no one really knows the answer to. Though there is a pattern between odd and even years which borders on “space oddity”, Antti Niemi can just be hit or miss. The last five seasons his save percentage has fluctuated from the league average to above average each year. San Jose has been rather consistent so there are saves that Niemi definitely should be making that he is not. Then he shows flashes of an elite goaltender or borderline elite and that drives experts, media, and fans nuts. Can you really pay a guy like this big money? I guess other teams have but……that is a little bit much of a question mark.
3. Alex Stalock is knocking on the door…..
The fact that Alex Stalock actually started a game in the playoffs over Antti Niemi was a bit of a sign. Stalock had better numbers across the board and looked like a better fit at times in net for San Jose. It should be an interesting battle in training camp. Stalock likely won’t steal the job this year but maybe he is the one who starts in 2015-16. Time will tell on this one so stay tuned.
4. San Jose seems hellbent on changing things.
At some point, the structure in San Jose has to change and it would almost make sense to change goalies too, right? The question would then be this. Where would Niemi go next? Certainly, he would not get the millions he is looking for. He would have to take less. People also forget that Niemi will be 31 this season. Do his bad habits get worse or does he iron them out? I guess we will find out soon enough but so far if things do not change, Niemi will not get that huge deal.
What do you think fantasy hockey fans?