Antti Niemi's second season in Dallas was even worse than his first, and his 3.30 GAA and .892 save percentage were the worst in the NHL among goalies that played at least 30 games. While the Stars' issues getting the puck out of their own end contributed to that abysmal performance, the 33-year-old's skills seemed to degrade as well, and he looked like a shadow of the player who won 39 games just three years ago with the Sharks. Bought out by Dallas in the offseason, Niemi signed a one-year prove-it deal with Pittsburgh and will head into 2017-18 providing the defending champs with a veteran backup to Matt Murray. If his level of play doesn't pick back up, though, Niemi could find himself looking for work once again.
Niemi allowed two goals on 19 shots in Tuesday's matchup with Buffalo. Tuesday was Niemi's first game action since joining the Pens in the offseason, and it was not the type of outing that instills confidence in fantasy owners or fans. If Pittsburgh is going to pull off the three-peat, it's going to be on the back of No. 1 netminder Matt Murray.
Niemi will tend the twine for Tuesday's preseason clash with Buffalo, Sam Kasan of Pens Inside Scoop reports. Niemi will make his first appearance in the Black and Gold after signing with the Pens during the offseason. He went 12-12-4 with a 3.30 GAA in 37 outings with Dallas last season and will serve as the backup for Pittsburgh during the upcoming campaign. The 34-year-old will man the crease in the first two periods before being replaced in the third by Casey DeSmith.
Niemi signed a one-year, $700,000 contract with the Penguins on Saturday. The Finnish tender has fallen from grace over the years, with his two-year tenure with the Stars including extremely weak peripherals (2.92 GAA, .900 save percentage), not to mention that he only recorded three shutouts in 85 games over that span. Still, he is a former Stanley Cup champion who lifted Lord Stanley's chalice with the Blackhawks in 2010, and there's very little risk to the two-time defending champs acquiring him based on the short length of his new deal and the fact that he'll be paid the Average Joe's equivalent to pennies on the dollar. With Marc-Andre Fleury courted by the Golden Knights in late June, Niemi will be the No. 2 goalie behind Matt Murray in the upcoming season.
The Stars bought out the final year of Niemi's contract Tuesday. Niemi is this a free agent, and it remains to be seen what kind of job he'll get now. Reports indicated the Stars had trouble finding a trade partner, so there might not be much work out there for the 33-year-old netminder. He finished last season with an .892 save percentage through 37 games.
Niemi was waived by the Stars on Monday and will be bought out of his remaining contract if he goes unclaimed, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports. Upon the Stars trading for the rights to Ben Bishop back in May, the expectation was that Niemi was going to be reduced to a backup role at best in the coming season. Now, Dallas is looking to get rid of the goaltender altogether in waiving him Monday morning. While unlikely, if a team claims Niemi off waivers, the Stars would be free and clear of his cap hit.
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