The biggest winner with Jaroslav Halak's new contract? Antti Niemi

Niemi6.jpgEarlier 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.

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    Caggiula expected to sign shortly, Canucks could be front-runners

    during the championship game of the 2016 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championships at Amalie Arena on April 9, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.The North Dakota Fighting Hawks defeated the Quinnipiac Bobcats 5-1 to win the national title. Getty
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    College free agent Drake Caggiula is expected to pick a team shortly, possibly even today.

    The University of North Dakota winger had originally shortlisted six teams, according to a report. Those teams were Philadelphia, Edmonton, Ottawa, Vancouver, Chicago and Buffalo.

    TSN’s Bob McKenzie said this morning on Edmonton radio that the Canucks are “maybe” the front-runners to land the 21-year-old. Vancouver signed Caggiula’s teammate, defenseman Troy Stecher, a couple of weeks ago, and Caggiula’s linemate, Brock Boeser, was drafted by the Canucks in the first round last year.

    Recently, Boeser told Postmedia that he was trying to convince Caggiula to sign with Vancouver, where there will be plenty of opportunities for young forwards in the next couple of years.

    If it’s not the Canucks, McKenzie said he’s heard the Oilers have a “puncher’s chance” of getting Caggiula.

    Vigneault will be behind the Rangers’ bench in 2016-17

    New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault runs a practice at NHL hockey training camp Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, in Greenburgh N.Y. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
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    The New York Rangers may have been bounced in the opening round of the 2016 playoffs, but they aren’t looking to make a coaching change. In a phone interview with Montreal’s LaPresse newspaper, Alain Vigneault confirmed that he’ll be back behind the Rangers’ bench next season.

    “I’ve had discussions with the club’s front office and they told me that they wanted me to come back next season,” Vigneault told LaPresse (quotes have been translated by PHT).

    Vigneault and Rangers management will meet in Palm Springs next week to discuss what went wrong in 2015-16.

    Even though the season didn’t go the way the Rangers had hoped, Vigneault insists he was never worried about losing his job.

    “I don’t really worry about that stuff,” Vigneault said of the rumors surrounding his job security. “There’s 82 games in a season plus the playoffs and you can’t start thinking about your fate after each game. After a loss, you forget it and start thinking about the adjustments you need to make. In regards to our situation, we still managed to pick up 101 points this season. That’s a good season, but we still expected more from our team in the playoffs.”

    Like every off-season, there will be changes, but Vigneault isn’t expecting any major ones.

    “There’s definitely going to be changes. I don’t know if there’ll be big changes because today, it’s hard to make big changes. With the salary cap, it’s not realistic to think that way.”

    When pressed about potential changes, Vigneault wasn’t willing to elaborate.

    Vigneault also touched on the way Dan Boyle went after two reporters at the team’s year-end media availability. It’s safe to say he wasn’t thrilled about the way the whole thing went down.

    “It’s a lesson for me and our whole team,” added Vigneault. “It’s disappointing because Dan had a really nice career. He won the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay, but all people will remember him for is this incident. What happened with him really surprised us. It’s too bad. I hope people will remember him for the career he had.”

    Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

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    The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with one game on Friday night. You can catch tonight’s action via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

    Tampa Bay at NY Islanders (7:00 p.m. ET)

    The TV broadcast of Game 4 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Lightning lead the series 2-1.

    Here’s some relevant reading material you might enjoy:

    No hearings scheduled for Boyle on Hickey hit, or Hickey on Drouin hit

    Lightning take dramatic OT win vs. Islanders, go up 2-1 in series

    WATCH LIVE: Canada-USA (IIHF World Hockey Championship)

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    A huge tilt on day one of the World Hockey Championships, as Canada and the USA clash in Russia. You can watch the game online using the NBC Sports Live Extra app.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

    Canada came away with a gold medal in last year’s tournament while the United States took home the bronze. Of course, each team’s roster changes significantly every year.

    The USA’s next game is tomorrow against Belarus. Canada will play Sunday against Hungary.