The Big Mac Blog

Stars corner market on over-priced Finnish goalies who look finished

The Dallas Stars signed former San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi to a three-year contract after acquiring him over the weekend.
The Dallas Stars signed former San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi to a three-year contract after acquiring him over the weekend. AP

As part of my ambitious Be Positive Campaign, the Dallas Stars acquired a goalie who won a Stanley Cup. The Dallas Stars acquired a player who won a Stanley Cup as his team’s starting goalie. The Dallas Stars now have a Stanley Cup winning goalie on their team.

The Be Positive Campaign is now suspended until further notice.

Despite obvious holes on defense, Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill thinks he found someone to push incumbent disappointment Kari Lehtonen in goal. The team acquired former San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, and then promptly buried him in a three-year contract worth $13.5 million. Why are they giving this guy so much guaranteed money? Did they not learn anything from the awful deal former Stars’ GM Joe Nieuwendyk gave Lehtonen?

The Stars are now the proud owners of two of the most expensive, disappointing Finnish goalies on the planet that they absolutely will not be able to unload if these guys spare it up the way both did in 2014-’15.

Lehtonen is signed through the summer of 2018 at $5.9 million per season. Niemi is now signed through the summer of 2018 at $4.5 million per season.

Niemi’s former team thought so highly of him they traded him to the Stars for the highly coveted seventh-round pick.

Last season in 61 games for the Sharks, Niemi was 31-23-7 with a 2.59 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. Lehtonen was 34-17-10 with a 2.94 GAA and .903 save percentage with the Stars last season. Neither team made the playoffs, and the Stars were actually better than the Sharks.

Niemi was the starting goalie for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, when they won the Stanley Cup. He filed for arbitration, but the team elected not to sign him when he was awarded an offer of just under $3 million. Instead, the Blackhawks signed former Stars goalie Marty Turco, whose stay in Chicago was not a success.

Niemi went to San Jose, where was durable and OK. In his first season, the Sharks made the Western Conference Finals. They made the playoffs the next three seasons, winning one round in ‘13.

Niemi is a backup, which is why Chicago dumped him. He won a Cup in Chicago because he wasn’t bad, and the team was loaded in front of him.

Now the Stars are locked in two a pair of high-priced goalies with the prayer that one of them will hit.

Nill believes the NHL is going the way of the two-headed goalie, and that such a move is a necessity given the workload of this position.

“It’s a challenge but it also gives a chance to work with the goalie coach. Let your body recover,” Niemi said during a conference call with DFW reporters. “There are two sides (of splitting the load). In the NHL, you have a lot of games there is room for two guys playing a lot.”

Translation - “I just got $13.5 million guaranteed. I’m happy.”

With the rule changes the NHL has implemented after the lockout of 2004-’05, and most recently with 3-on-3 overtime, the days of the dominant goalie are thankfully dead. Fans want 5-4, not 2-1.

But that does not mean the days of the overpaid Finnish goalies playing for the same team should be here. The Stars obviously do not like their minor league prospects at this position. They are intentionally stuck with these guys. There is no player on the Stars any more un-tradeable than Lehtonen, and now potentially Niemi, too.

One of these guys had best work; if not, given this team’s continued status on the blue line, the playoffs will again be a dream.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @macengelprof

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