Analyzing where Antti Niemi could play next in the NHL

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Niemi10.jpgYesterday we told you about how Antti Niemi was dead-set on staying in North America this year and playing in the NHL. While we’re more than aware of Niemi’s situation as it stands thanks to the Blackhawks parting ways with him, it’s worth taking a look around the league at what teams, even remotely, could stand to use Antti Niemi.

There are eight teams by my estimation that conceivably could use Antti Niemi:

San Jose, Columbus, Nashville, Philadelphia, New York Islanders, Washington, Florida, Tampa Bay

Of those eight, one has already declared they have no interest in Niemi (like the Islanders have) or are going with other options. For some teams, their situations seem to be rather intriguing and much more amenable to adding a goalie who just helped his team win the Cup. 

San Jose: The Sharks have made their bed with Antero Niittymaki and appear to be all in on having Thomas Greiss to split time with him. Greiss doesn’t offer much in the way of real NHL experience having been Evgeni Nabokov’s backup for the last year. Niittymaki is joining the Sharks after spending his career splitting time in Philadelphia and Tampa Bay alike. He’s never truly been “the man” in either place and he’s proven to be snake-bitten by injuries. Having an experienced and capable backup just in case could work out pretty well, especially since Niemi’s asking price would be pretty small at this point.

Columbus: I put the Blue Jackets on this list only because of how poor Steve Mason’s season was last year. Backup goalie Mathieu Garon is good enough to help spell time, but you’d have to think that Niemi would be an improvement over Garon at the least and could be just the person to help push Mason into recapturing his Calder Trophy nominated play from two seasons ago.

Nashville: So the Predators don’t have an experienced backup goalie right now and appear to be heading into camp giving a host of their home-grown talent a shot to make the NHL to play the part of Pekka Rinne’s caddy. The team has been rumored to be looking at Jose Theodore to potentially play that role, but why not take a flier on Rinne’s fellow countryman from Finland in Niemi? It’s likely the two could play off each other and Niemi could provide more than capable support for Rinne when he needs a break. With the Predators defensive system, Niemi could provide more-than-capable relief work with a short learning curve.

Philadelphia: They’ve been rumored to be hot for Niemi since the get-go in this whole mess and for good reason. Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton are nice goalies but banking on them to carry the load for a full season and the playoffs might be asking a lot of either of them. The Flyers have done their part to improve the defense in front of them and that will go a long way to solving some of those worries. Adding Niemi, however, would give them a guy who’s proven that he can get it done, something the Flyers know a little too well themselves.

Washington: First off, Niemi will not end up with the Capitals. No way, no how. Well, not immediately anyhow. If the Caps experiment of going with Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth starts to go south and the Caps start to struggle because of the goaltending (read: not because of sloppy defense or lack of scoring) it wouldn’t shock me something awful to see the Caps, if they still could, float an offer Niemi’s way and let him jump into the fire. This would likely be a last-resort sort of move, however.

Florida: If there’s a team to keep an eye on through all this, it’s the Panthers. The GM that brought Antti Niemi on board in Chicago is now the GM of the Panthers (Dale Tallon) and he was quoted saying this about Niemi, “Do I have interest in him? We have any player with his history, that is a champion. We’re open for business 24-7.” The Panthers have Tomas Vokoun holding down the starting job, but if I were Scott Clemmensen, I’d start to get a little nervous about my job in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers have tremendous goaltending depth in the minors, but Vokoun is a free agent after this season and Niemi could be their inexpensive building block of the short-term future in goal.

Tampa Bay: Here’s another situation where Niemi isn’t an immediate answer but he could be one in the future. At this point during the free agent season, there’s no way you can count Tampa Bay out of anything really. Mike Smith is a very good goalie, but he’s injury-prone and Dan Ellis needs to prove that he can carry the load consistently through a full season before banking on them as sure things. I have no doubts that Antti Niemi’s number could be in GM Steve Yzerman’s phone should Smith’s injury bug bites him again or Ellis comes up short.

Of all these teams, Florida has raced out to the front of the speculation lead for Niemi’s services because of his past with Dale Tallon and Tallon’s glowing words about him. San Jose fans insist that Niemi won’t fit with the Sharks even though having him go there seems to make a world of sense. Feel free to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about, however. Just don’t try to convince me that a tandem of Niittymaki and Greiss is going to get it done and take the Sharks to the Stanley Cup. That sort of goaltending plan has failed the Philadelphia Flyers for the last 30+ years.

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    North Dakota loses another d-man as Kings sign LaDue

    BOSTON, MA - APRIL 09:  Paul LaDue #6 of North Dakota skates against the Boston University Terriers during the second period of the 2015 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championship semifinals at TD Garden on April 9, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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    Keaton Thompson, Troy Stecher and now, Paul LaDue.

    On Friday, the Kings announced that LaDue — the junior d-man that helped North Dakota win the Frozen Four — agreed to a one-year, entry-level deal, forgoing his senior season in the process.

    LaDue, 23, was part of a talented UND blueline that also featured fellow juniors Troy Stecher — who since signed with Vancouver — and Thompson, who inked with the Ducks.

    So yeah, bit of an exodus.

    Thankfully for North Dakota, freshman scoring sensation Brock Boeser has already committed to returning for his sophomore campaign, while junior defenseman Gage Ausmus — a San Jose draftee — vowed to go back to school as well.

    As for Frozen Four MOP Drake Caggiula — a senior that was already leaving school — he’s already begun his tour of interested NHL suitors.

    Per TSN, Caggiula has shortlisted six clubs: Philadelphia, Edmonton, Ottawa, Vancouver, Chicago and Buffalo.

    Wilson fined for kneeing Sheary

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    No suspension for Capitals forward Tom Wilson. Only a fine.

    That’s what the NHL’s Department of Player Safety decided after Wilson kneed Pittsburgh’s Conor Sheary last night in Washington.

    The fine of $2,403.67 is the maximum allowable under the CBA, and, at the very least, it puts Wilson on official notice.

    Wilson was not penalized on the play, and Sheary was able to leave the ice under his own power and remain in the game.

    “We’re just going to play hockey, and the refs are going to call it the way they see it,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told reporters afterwards. “Our guys are going to play.”

    This morning, Capitals coach Barry Trotz reportedly said of the play, “It was OK, but it wasn’t I would say necessary.”

    Report: In expansion draft, teams must protect players with no-movement clauses

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    If a player has a no-movement clause, his club will be forced to protect him in next summer’s expected expansion draft.

    If, on the other hand, a player merely has a no-trade clause, his club will have no obligation to put him on its protected list.

    Those details were reported this morning by TSN’s Gary Lawless, shortly after he’d reported that the NHL and NHLPA had come together on a framework for a potential expansion draft.

    Per General Fanager, here’s the difference between the two clauses:

    A No-Movement Clause prohibits a team from moving a player by trade, loan or waivers, or assigning that player to the minors without the player’s consent. This keeps the player with the pro team unless permitted by the player to move the player by one of these means. A No-Movement Clause does not restrict a team from buying out or terminating a player’s contract.

    A No-Trade Clause is less restrictive, as it only places restrictions on movement by trade. A player with a No-Trade Clause cannot be traded by a team unless the player provides consent. A Partial or Modified No-Trade Clause is often less restrictive than a Full No-Trade Clause, and depends on the conditions outlined in the player’s contracts. Often these are No-Trade Clauses with conditions that give the player the right to provide a list of teams to which the team can or cannot trade the player.

    So, for example, in Pittsburgh, the Penguins would be obligated to put Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil KesselMarc-Andre Fleury, and Kris Letang on their protected list. All five have NMCs, per General FanagerPatric Hornqvist, however, would not require protection, even though he has a modified no-trade clause.

    Now, granted, the Penguins weren’t going to risk leaving their superstars exposed anyway.

    Where this rule could have consequences is if a team is forced to protect a player with a no-move, at the expense of exposing a player it would prefer to keep. 

    In Columbus, for example, David Clarkson, Scott Hartnell and Fedor Tyutin have no-moves, as do Brandon Dubinsky and Nick Foligno. So, assuming General Fanager’s information is correct and there aren’t any complicating factors, that’s five players they’d be obligated to protect, whether they’d want to or not.

    We’ll let Jackets fans fret over what that may cost them. There will be plenty of fretting league-wide, no doubt. 

    But just remember, if the NHL only expands to Las Vegas — and that’s the most likely scenario at this point — each team can only lose one player in the expansion draft.

    Ducks fire Boudreau

    Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, back, looks on against the Colorado Avalanche in the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 9, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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    In the end, it was one playoff failure too many.

    On Friday, the Ducks reacted to their upset loss to Nashville by doing the expected — relieving head coach Bruce Boudreau of his duties.

    “I would like to thank Bruce for his hard work and dedication to the franchise,” Ducks GM Bob Murray said in a statement, tweeted out by the club. “This was a very difficult decision to make.

    “Bruce is a good coach and character person, and we wish him the best of luck in the future.”

    Boudreau, 61, enjoyed tremendous regular-season success in Anaheim — 208-104-40 record over five years — but ultimately paid the price for the club’s playoff failures.

    Despite a wealth of talent and repeated home-ice advantage, the Ducks never qualified for a Stanley Cup final and were twice bounced in the opening round. Most damning was the club’s record in Game 7s — Wednesday’s loss to Nashville was the fourth straight Game 7 defeat Anaheim had suffered.

    What’s more, it was the fourth time they lost a series in which they led 3-2.

    What’s more, it was the fourth Game 7 they lost on home ice.

    For Boudreau, this firing will only add to the narrative that’s dogged him throughout his career, dating back to his time in Washington.

    Great regular-season coach, not so much in the playoffs.

    It’s ultimately unfair and probably too simplistic, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that a coach with an impressive win total — 409, putting him No. 32 all-time — has never competed for the Stanley Cup, and only qualified for one conference final.

    Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see if Boudreau can find work as quickly as the last time he was fired. After getting turfed in Washington, it took him all of two days to be hired by the Ducks, and it’s quite possible Ottawa could now be in the mix for his services.

    The Sens are looking for an experienced bench boss, per new GM Pierre Dorion, and have already interviewed ex-Wild head coach Mike Yeo.

    Related: Boudreau says this was the Ducks’ toughest loss yet