2010 Stanley Cup Finals: We should never have doubted Antti Niemi

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Niemi10.jpgWe all questioned him, admit it.

When the Chicago Blackhawks made the public decision to not go after a
goaltender at the trade deadline and to instead stick with Cristobal
Huet and Antti Niemi, we panned the Hawks and said they were bonkers.

There was no way this team could win the Stanley Cup with either of
those two goaltenders in net.

I guess we were wrong, huh?

Niemi may not have been the most stellar example of Stanley Cup
goaltending against the Hawks, but through four rounds he was exactly
what his team needed him to be. He was steady, he was consistent and on
occasion he stole a game or two with some absolutely outstanding
performances.

Tonight against the Flyers, he may not have been at his very best but
he made the big saves when they matter most.

Now, he’s the first Finnish goaltender to lead his team to the
Stanley Cup and he did it as a rookie. Before this season, he was never
expected to be this important to the Blackhawks but when he was called
upon he approached the task like he always does: calm, collected and
determined.

Every player on his team says that no one works harder than Niemi,
that nothing ever seems to rattle him. He’s not an emotional goaltender,
and his ability to bounce back from bad games is perhaps one of the
best reasons the Hawks ultimately won it all.

“So many tough
moments, and even from Game 1 of our first series against Nashville,
people question you every single game as a rookie goaltender,” Jonathan
Toews said after the game when asked about his goaltender. “Everyone
knows how big of a position, how important it is to have a great
goaltender in the postseason. Everyone questioned his experience and
his ability to deal with that pressure.”

Still, Toews says he
never lost faith in Niemi even through the ups and downs of the season
and the playoffs.

“But I think we all believed in him. We all
knew he was that type of guy. And all the accolades on good days that
were thrown at him didn’t seem to bother him either. He just kept
playing, enjoyed the game and was a huge, huge part of our team.”

Hurricanes give Di Giuseppe a two-way deal for 2017-18

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The Carolina Hurricanes signed forward Phil Di Giuseppe to a one-year, two-way contract on Thursday.

The team announced that Di Giuseppe’s deal is worth $725K at the NHL level and $125K in the AHL in 2017-18.

Di Giuseppe, 23, was the 38th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft. He’s been getting some looks at the NHL level with Carolina:

2015-16: 17 points in 41 games
2016-17: seven points in 36 games

He’s also been splitting time between the AHL and NHL lately, so a two-way deal works well enough.

Carolina doesn’t have much more to do on the free agent front, but that doesn’t mean that their off-season is wrapped up, as there’s still that whole ownership situation to settle.

Habs president Molson pens glowing farewell letter to Markov

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Another bold move by GM Marc Bergevin, another statement from Montreal Canadiens president/CEO Geoff Molson.

However Molson actually feels about the franchise’s decision to let Andrei Markov leave for the KHL, he provided quite the goodbye letter regarding the 38-year-old defenseman. One can’t help but wonder how Molson feels about Montreal’s overall makeover, whether you believe Mark Streit is really “replacing” Markov or not.

Anyway, that will need to wait. In the meantime, here’s the very kind statement from Molson to Markov:

“On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank Andrei for his great contributions during his 16 seasons as a proud member of the Montreal Canadiens. Arguably one of the best defensemen in franchise history, Andrei was a model of dedication to the great game of hockey. A respected figure around the league and among his teammates, Andrei demonstrated leadership both on and off the ice. Andrei’s commitment to our franchise was second to none, proven by his overcoming three serious and potentially career-ending injuries. I would like to wish Andrei the best of luck in the next step of his career, and happiness with his family.”

Speaking of Canadiens all-timers, Larry Robinson had plenty of nice things to say about Markov, too.

Related

Markov, Habs officially part ways.

Markov is headed to the KHL.

Sabres re-sign Eichel’s buddy Rodrigues for two years

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The Buffalo Sabres might have signed Evan Rodrigues back in 2015 in part because he enjoyed so much success as a college linemate with Jack Eichel at Boston University, but the undrafted forward seems like he’s making a case that he’ll be a part of their future in his own right.

The Sabres handed Rodrigues a two-year deal that is two-way in 2017-18 and one-way in 2018-19. Whenever he’s at the NHL level, it’s worth $650K per season.

Rodrigues debuted in 2015-16, scoring a goal and an assist in two games. He managed to play in 30 regular-season contests for the Sabres last season, collecting six points.

He’s shown quite a bit of improvement at the AHL level, in particular. After collecting 30 points in 72 games for the Rochester Americans in 2015-16, he scored 30 again in 2016-17, although he only needed 48 contests to do so. Rodrigues isn’t quite Matt Moulson to Eichel’s John Tavares just yet, but it’s possible that he might at least develop into a regular NHL player.

Buffalo’s work isn’t done for the summer just yet, as RFAs Zemgus Girgensons and Nathan Beaulieu still need deals.

Andrei Markov opts for KHL after saying goodbye to Canadiens

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Andrei Markov wanted to play his entire career with the Montreal Canadiens. With that option officially off the table, Markov announced that he’s headed for Russia and the KHL.

“I didn’t see myself with any other NHL team,” Markov said during a conference call wrapping up his lengthy stay with the Habs. “I didn’t see myself wearing another jersey.”

(At least not the jersey of another NHL team.)

The 38-year-old also noted that he hasn’t closed the door to a return to Montreal. That makes sense since it seems like it was largely the Canadiens’ decision to part ways with Markov, essentially replacing him with Mark Streit at a heavily discounted rate.

Beyond the comforts of home, Markov was almost certainly motivated to play in the KHL because of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The veteran blueliner did not mention which KHL team he’ll end up playing for. There were some rumblings that Markov might sign with the Florida Panthers, but that turned out to not be true.

If it’s a one-year deal, a return to the Habs is at least feasible in 2018-19. Considering his age, it sure seems like this is the end of Markov’s lengthy run with the Canadiens, though.