Antti Niemi

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Antti Niemi

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Antti Niemi

Each day this week until July 1, the day free agency begins, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile the five best goalie options for the Flyers on the open market and project their likelihood of signing.

Antti Niemi
Age: 33
Height: 6-2
Weight: 215
Last team: Dallas Stars
2016-17 cap hit: $4.5 million

Scouting report
Niemi signed with the Blackhawks as an undrafted free agent in 2008 and played three games for Chicago in 2008-09. He broke training camp with the Blackhawks in 2009-10 and eventually took over as the team's No. 1 goalie by the end of the season and for the playoffs.

The Vantaa, Finland, native started 22 games in the postseason and helped the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup win over the Flyers in 2010, though his numbers in the Final weren't pretty. In six games against the Flyers, he posted an .882 save percentage. Overall, Niemi had a 2.63 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in the 2010 playoffs.

After winning the Cup with Chicago, Niemi filed for arbitration but the Blackhawks didn't want to pay the $2.75 million he was awarded and walked away. He signed a one-year deal with the San Jose Sharks, where he ended up spending the next five seasons.

In those five seasons, Niemi compiled a .917 save percentage and 2.40 goals-against average along with 25 shutouts. In the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Niemi was 24-12-6 with a 2.16 GAA, .924 save percentage and four shutouts. He was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, which Sergei Bobrovsky won.

San Jose traded Niemi's rights to the Dallas Stars at the 2015 draft. Dallas signed Niemi to a three-year, $13.5 million contract to pair with Kari Lehtonen. In 2015-16, Niemi posted a 2.67 GAA with a .905 save percentage. He was 25-13-7 and was the backup in the playoffs.

Last season was a disaster in net for the Stars. Both Lehtonen and Niemi struggled, and Dallas missed the playoffs. Niemi had an NHL-worst 3.30 goals-against average and his .892 save percentage was the second worst in the league to Michal Neuvirth (.891).

Dallas acquired Ben Bishop this offseason and then placed Niemi on waivers with the intention to buy out his final year. The Stars will carry a $1.5 million cap hit over the next two seasons while Niemi is an unrestricted free agent.

Dougherty's projection
Niemi is the worst possible option on the market for the Flyers. Going into next season with the two worst goalies from last season based off save percentage would be a major slap in the face of Steve Mason. With that said, I do think he's an option, unfortunately. 

With Ryan Miller reportedly likely to sign in Anaheim, Mike Condon staying in Ottawa, Chad Johnson likely going back to Buffalo, the free-agent goalie market is filling up quickly. There appear to be three teams in the market for either a starter or tandem goalie.

The Flyers are one of them. Winnipeg and Vancouver are the other two. The three best options on the market are Mason, Jonathan Bernier and Brian Elliott. But that doesn't necessarily mean the Flyers view it the same or that any of those three will sign here.

So, it's fair to examine Niemi as a potential fit, albeit not a good one. Let's keep it simple.

Positive: He's cost effective. Since the Stars are still paying him and with his numbers from last season, it's hard to imagine a team handing out a lot of money for him.

Negative: Well, he's not very good. The Flyers may be better off calling Ilya Bryzgalov than signing Niemi. This is a hard pass from me.

Hall's projection
This shouldn't happen for the Flyers.

Niemi turns 34 years old in August and his goals-against average has ballooned each of the past five seasons, with the 2016-17 campaign being his most futile, as his 3.30 GAA was worst in the NHL among netminders with 25 or more games played.

Like Tom said above, Niemi would not take much out of the Flyers' pockets. Maybe the Flyers can get him on a strict one-year insurance policy for dirt cheap — still, extremely unlikely. The Flyers want some quality here, too, not just a bargain.

The Flyers will do their due diligence. Provided the goalie market, Niemi should be evaluated but not seriously considered. The Finn looks in decline and Dallas couldn't get anything in exchange for his services and contract before buying him out.

Paone's projection
The Flyers should be steering way clear of Niemi here.

It’s easy to see why the Stars, a team that was in desperate need of goaltending help before they landed Bishop, decided to cut ties with Niemi last week with a buyout and were willing to eat his cap hit that came with it. Niemi had the chance to take the reins on a star-studded Dallas team and responded by playing like a sieve last season. The numbers Tom and Jordan mentioned above are the proof you need. 

Sure, Niemi would come to Philadelphia on a bargain and that no doubt is a fact that would catch the eyes of Hextall and the Flyers’ brass. And they should do their due diligence on Niemi, as they should with every goaltender on the market. They’d be doing a disservice to the team if they didn’t closely examine any goalie on the market.

But a goaltender on the clear decline isn’t one of the criteria on the Flyers’ checklist here.

And that decline has been steady for Niemi. His goals against average has consistently risen from 2.16 in 2012-13 to that gaudy 3.30 mark last season. And his save percentage has steadily dipped from .924 in 2012-13 to an ugly .892 last year. There’s a reason San Jose decided to move on two offseasons ago and then give up an asset like a precious first-round pick for Martin Jones to shore up their net.

Think about it this way: Isn’t the point of signing and investing in a free agent to make an improvement over what you had last season? 

Would a Niemi-Neuvirth tandem be an improvement over a Mason-Neuvirth tandem? Nope.

NHL Notes: Stars waive goalie Niemi and intend to buy him out, AP source says

NHL Notes: Stars waive goalie Niemi and intend to buy him out, AP source says

A person with direct knowledge of the decision has confirmed to The Associated Press that the Dallas Stars have placed goalie Antti Niemi on waivers with the intention to buy out the final year of his contract.

The person spoke to The AP on the condition of anonymity on Monday because the Stars have not announced the move, which was first reported by the Dallas Morning News.

Niemi is due to make $4.5 million next season, and would be bought out at $3 million spread over two years. The ninth-year player, who won a Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010, is coming off a disappointing season in which he went 12-12-4 and had a 3.3 goals-against average in 37 games.

He became the odd-man out in Dallas behind Kari Lehtonen and after Ben Bishop was acquired in a trade last month. Dallas has until Saturday to sign Bishop before he's eligible to become an unrestricted free agent.

Dallas did announce it re-signed rookie defenseman Esa Lindell to a two-year, $4.4 million contract, and forward Mark McNeill to a one-year deal. Lindell had six goals and 18 points in 73 games during his first full NHL season last year.

Lightning re-sign Sustr, Gourde, make qualifying offers to 9
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed defenseman Andrei Sustr and forward Yanni Gourde and made qualifying offers to nine other players, including forwards Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat.

Sustr agreed to a one-year, $1.95 million contract Monday. He appeared in 80 games last season, finishing with three goals and 14 points.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman says Gourde signed a two-year contract worth $1 million a season. The 25-year-old played in 20 games last season, scoring six goals.

Monday is the deadline for clubs to extend offers to ensure the right of first refusal or draft choice compensation should players sign an offer sheet with another team.

Johnson and Palat were among those receiving qualifying offers before the deadline. Others were goalie Kristers Gudlevskis, defensemen Jake Dotchin and Slater Koekkoek and forwards Michael Bournival, Tye McGinn, Matthew Peca and Tanner Richard.

Buffalo Sabres hire Sexton, Greeley to assistant GM jobs
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Buffalo Sabres general manager Jason Botterill continues filling out his staff by hiring Randy Sexton and Steve Greeley as assistant GMs.

Their responsibilities will include player development and overseeing Buffalo's minor-league affiliates, with Sexton also named GM of the American Hockey League Rochester Americans. The additions come two days after the NHL draft and a month after Botterill was hired to replace GM Tim Murray, who was fired along with coach Dan Bylsma in April.

Botterill and Sexton spent the previous seven years working for the Pittsburgh Penguins, where Sexton most recently served as the team's amateur scouting director.

Sexton's NHL experience dates to the early 1990s, when he was one of the co-founders of the Ottawa Senators, and served as the team's president, chief executive officer and general manager. He was also the Florida Panthers GM in 2009-10.

Greeley spent the past two seasons as the New Rangers assistant player personnel director. He previously worked in scouting roles with the Los Angeles Kings and U.S. National Team Development program.

Assistant GM Mark Jakubowski was promoted to become the Sabres vice president of hockey administration.