SHARKS GET ANOTHER FINN: Niemi Signs With San Jose, Feeds Bill Zito To Actual Shark
Today the San Jose Sharks announced they signed erstwhile Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi to a one year deal worth a reported 2 million dollars.
Or, roughly what our friend Al Cimaglia said he should have done with the Hawks at the beginning of the summer. Instead, he gets to wear teal and go from playing behind the team that allowed less shots per game than anyone in the NHL last season (25.1) to the team that placed 20th (31.4).
Considering the reports (from Blackhawks beat writer/broken clock David Huh) that Niemi had been offered a 3 year/$8 million deal from the Blackhawks at one point makes this even worse. Also, the fact that Bill Zito, Niemi's agent, couldn't get him a better deal sure makes him look like the Town Clown.
Let's clear up one misconception right away...
I saw on one site (I'll spare the embarassment of linkage) actually put forth the notion that Zito didn't tell Niemi about the Hawks' offer. This is naive at best, idiotic at worst. This isn't Zito's first trip around the block, and he knows players talk. If word gets around the NHL that he's withholding information from clientele, he's selling used Chryslers by Christmas.
What happened here was simple. You've never had a rookie goaltender who was a restricted free agent immediately after winning the Stanley Cup. We talked about it a lot leading into Niemi's arbitration hearing, but it was the case all summer. GMs were probably talking with Zito, Zito had a number in mind, then teams went for less expensive options. There's not a lot of big money floating around for goaltending right now, because the market was flooded. Think about it - Marty Turco signed for $1.3 million with the Hawks after making $5.4 million with Dallas last season. He took a $4 million cut to play behind the Hawks' defense. It's obvious that Zito greatly overestimated Niemi's value, and probably told Niemi he was do better than the reported Hawks offer.
Niemi, on the other hand, got a $1.2 million raise after winning the Stanley Cup to not only see more shots each night, but you can bet your markdown Niemi sweater they're going to be of significantly higher quality. Sharks' GM Doug Wilson didn't sign Niklas Hjalmarsson to an offer sheet as some sort of opening gambit to get Niemi - if he wanted to get Niemi, he would have just signed Niemi to a sheet. Wilson knows his defensive corps isn't up to snuff, and saw a first pair of Dan Boyle and Hjalmarsson holding it down for 4 years. Doug Wilson, after all, probably knows a thing or two about the importance of high quality defensemen.
One good thing for Niemi is that he's sharing the net with fellow Finn Antero Niitymaki, so he still won't be asked to carry a 50-60 game load during the regular season. While it sucks to be Thomas Greiss right now (projected to be Niitymaki's backup before the Niemi signing), the fact is there's a chance the Sharks' 1A/1B pairing in net will be an upgrade over Evgeni Nabakov.
So Niemi will get a nice ovation his first time through the United Center. We also get to look forward to every meatball in Chicago screaming all this season into next offseason, DA HAWKS GOTTA GET DAT NIEMI BACK!!!
Let me tell you right now, that shit is going to make me just as happy as a whore in a dance hall.