Earlier today, new St. Louis Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak, formerly of the Montreal Canadiens, signed a four-year contract with the Blues worth $15 million. While the Blues are likely ecstatic they got a budding young superstar locked up for a cap hit of $3.75 million a year, there’s another team out there that’s probably terrified by Halak’s deal: The Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks have to be scared because they’ve got a restricted free agent goaltender of their own in Antti Niemi. The Blackhawks also have some salary cap issues of their own to work with and around as well. In other words, a semi-reasonable deal for Jaroslav Halak becomes Antti Niemi’s “Exhibit A” to use in a potential arbitration hearing with the Hawks. Ken Campbell of The Hockey News examines the situation a little bit himself.
That doesn’t necessarily mean Niemi will get a contract worth $3.75 per season in arbitration. Niemi’s award would be only a one- or two-year award and it’s difficult to compare that to a four-year deal, particularly since one of those seasons Halak would have been an unrestricted free agent. Generally speaking, more of a premium is put on longer contracts and every year a team can avoid unrestricted free agency comes at a cost.
The fun part of this analysis here is that Niemi can become an unrestricted free agent after next season since he’ll be 27. If the Blackhawks are looking to keep Niemi on the long term, they’ll have to negotiate that out with him themselves and deal with Halak’s numbers. If they go to arbitration, Niemi’s case is made for him already with Halak setting the precedent. Niemi can then say something along the lines of, “Sure, Halak’s season and post season were nice and all but he still got pulled three times and finished 9-9. I won the Stanley Cup. Pay me.”
Only problem there is that Niemi wasn’t exactly playing the part of Patrick Roy on his way to helping the Blackhawks win the Cup, he looked a bit more like Grant Fuhr in that he wasn’t exactly stellar in goal but he didn’t cost his team any series and certainly wasn’t quite as poor as Michael Leighton was in the finals.
From the NHL:
Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.
Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.
PITTSBURGH — When Pete DeBoer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks, he wasn’t totally cognizant of how much heartbreak the fan base had experienced throughout the years.
Now he knows.
“First year in the community, I didn’t realize kind of the baggage that was carried around,” DeBoer said this morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Twenty-five-year season-ticket holders coming up to you with tears in their eyes and crying.”
The Sharks, of course, have never been this far in the playoffs. Prior to this year, they’d made it three times to the Western Conference Final, losing each time.
More painful were the first-round exits. Like in 2009 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy and got knocked out by the Ducks, and two years ago when they led the Kings 3-0 before dropping four straight.
It was only after the Sharks beat the Blues that DeBoer fully realized the “gravity of what they’ve been through” as fans in San Jose, and “how important this is to them.”
Not that he’s satisfied with getting this far.
“The business at hand now is to get off on the right foot, plant the right seeds for this series, impose our game,” he said. “Every series is the same — it’s whatever team can impose their game on the other team the quickest and for the longest. That’s our goal here tonight.”
Related: For Pete DeBoer, San Jose was the perfect landing spot
Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar will spend part of his offseason trying to help Slovenia qualify for the Olympics.
RTV Slovenia has the story here.
The qualification games will be played September 1-4 in Minsk. Slovenia is in a group with Belarus, Denmark and Poland. The winner of the group will qualify for the Olympics.
The NHL reportedly has no issue with Kopitar’s participation, even though the league has yet to commit to sending its players to Pyeongchang.
Slovenia made its Olympic debut in ice hockey at the 2014 Games in Sochi.
Kopitar will also represent Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup later in September.
Related: Slovenia beats Slovakia for historic win
PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.
But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.
The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.
Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.
Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.
Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.