Dallas Stars To Buyout Antti Niemi
It’s been expected for some time, and this afternoon the Dallas Stars waived Antti Niemi as a prelude to buying out the final year of his contract.
Niemi's buyout is two thirds of remaining $4.5 million. Cost is $3.0 million spread out over two seasons or $1.5 million cap hit for 2 years
— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) June 26, 2017
Niemi had been with the Stars for two seasons, during which he put up the worst numbers of his NHL career — a .900 overall save percentage in 85 games. In 2016-17, his 5-on-5 save percentage was only .909; league average is around .923. With both the San Jose Sharks and the Chicago Blackhawks, Niemi’s numbers were closer to league average.
Perhaps more to the point, Niemi noted in January to Finnish media Yle Sports that he had difficulty adjusting to frequent goalie changes under Head Coach Lindy Ruff, a situation he described as an “endless morass.” As InGoal Magazine noted in April, there is reason to think that there was more to the Stars’ goaltending situation than poor performance by one player. Both goalies struggled to perform well under the circumstances, although Niemi clearly did worse than Kari Lehtonen.
Regardless, the Stars were open about the fact that they were looking for a new home for one or both of their goaltenders even before they acquired Ben Bishop from the Los Angeles Kings in May. That merely put a period on it. As no trade appears to have materialized for Niemi, even with the possibility of the Stars retaining some of his contract, a buyout is probably the best option for all.
At 33 years old, Niemi will become an unrestricted free agent in a market that includes Jonathan Bernier, Brian Elliott, Steve Mason, and Ryan Miller, a daunting prospect.
And he may not be the only goaltender facing this situation. The Carolina Hurricanes also find themselves with three NHL goaltenders under contract. It wouldn’t be unsurprising to see the Canes use a buyout on Eddie Lack, if they are similarly unable to find a trade partner.
The window for buying out contracts ends on June 30; players must be waived no later than noon on June 29.