Antti Niemi has grabbed a hold of the starting job in San Jose and he’s helped the Sharks get back into the lead in the Pacific Division with his great play over the last month. After coming over from Chicago as a free agent after winning the Stanley Cup, Niemi has seized the role as the starter with Antero Niittymaki out with an injury.
Today, Sharks GM Doug Wilson rewarded the Finnish netminder with a four year contract extension worth $15.2 million, good for a salary cap hit of $3.8 million per season for the next four years.
Niemi is 23-15-3 this season with a 2.44 goal against average and a .919 save percentage with five shutouts. His play has been so good of late he was named the NHL’s second star for the month of February. The curious part of this signing, however, comes in comparison to the deal Detroit signed their starting goalie Jimmy Howard to just yesterday.
Howard signed for two more years with Detroit for $4.5 million. Both are outstanding goalies and both would’ve demanded a lot of money on the open market yet the cost for each of them is vastly different as Howard’s cap hit comes in at $2.25 million. Obviously there’s not a universal guide for drawing up a contract and both Doug Wilson and Wings GM Ken Holland do things differently, you just have to wonder whether Howard is annoyed with his agent right now or if Doug Wilson is peeved at Holland for showing him the road when he was already deep in talks with Niemi.
Still, for the Sharks after all the drama last offseason provided, getting goaltending squared away for the next four years is a good thing. One thing worth watching is how their payroll is handled next season. According to CapGeek, the Sharks have 14 players under contract next season at a cap hit of $51.825 million. With the salary cap slated to be around $61 or $62 million next year the Sharks wouldn’t likely be looking at any major acquisitions with just over $10 million to spend and at least six more roster spots to fill. It could be an adventurous offseason again for the Sharks next year.
For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”
On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.
With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.
“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”
As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.
It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.
Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?
We’ll know in a month.
Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:
The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.
The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.
If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.
Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”
And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.
While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.