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.
The low penalty minutes and high point totals are in, and thus we have the 2016 NHL Awards’ three finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy: Aleksander Barkov, Loui Eriksson and Anze Kopitar.
OK, the actual definition for the award is that it goes “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
Same difference, eh?
Barkov really made a breakthrough this season with the Florida Panthers, scoring 59 points versus just eight penalty minutes. He only has 34 PIM in 191 career regular season contests.
You can see Eriksson and Kopitar representing their respective countries in this post’s main image. Eriksson enjoyed his best (and maybe last?) season with the Boston Bruins while Kopitar hopes to win the 2016 Selke as the Los Angeles Kings’ defensively adept – yet apparently courteous – forward.
It’s unclear who wins this “fight,” but one would assume it wouldn’t be a dirty one.
The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with two games on Saturday. You can catch tonight’s games via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.
Can Sidney Crosby and the Penguins even things up against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals? Will the Lightning avoid dropping both games at home against the Islanders? We’ll find out on NBC.
NY Islanders at Tampa Bay (3:00 p.m. ET)
The TV broadcast of Game 2 will be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.
Pittsburgh at Washington (8:00 p.m. ET)
The TV broadcast of Game 2 will also be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.
Some reading to get you pumped up:
– The Penguins are keeping chatty Marc-Andre Fleury from speaking to the media(reportedly).
– Tom Wilson received a fine, not a suspension, for that knee-to-knee hit.
– T.J. Oshie was the difference-maker for Washington in Game 1.
– Don’t expect Steven Stamkos to face red-hot John Tavares anytime soon (or at all, maybe).
– Read about the Isles’ Game 1 win
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Patrick Eaves won’t be able to play for the Dallas Stars against the St. Louis Blues in their upcoming Game 2.
The last time we saw Eaves, he was leaving the ice by gliding on one foot after being hit by a teammate’s shot. He needed help to the locker room and was seen on crutches according to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News.
The bad news is that Eaves cannot go. The good news is that the Stars can replace him with a player who boasts considerable offensive skill, as Valeri Nichushkin will take Eaves’ place.
Nichushkin wasn’t very effective in five postseason games so far, failing to score a point and only managed three shots on goal.
Still, if the frenetic pace of Game 1 carries on through this series, Nichushkin could very well make an impact.
Update: the Stars have other options at forward after making recalls:
Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals might look a little different in Game 2 on Saturday after that blistering Game 1.
As the team down 1-0, it’s not too surprising that the Penguins boast the more significant lineup questions, although they lean toward health concerns rather than performance tweaks.
Conor Sheary was able to return during Game 1 after Tom Wilson‘s controversial knee-to-knee hit, and he appears to be in for tonight’s contest as well. Chris Kunitz isn’t quite a guarantee, as he’s currently labeled a game-time decision.
For what it’s worth, Kunitz himself believes he’ll be in. Whether he plays on Saturday or not, it sounds like Kunitz is taking extra safety measures going forward.
The Penguins stayed vague with Marc-Andre Fleury, merely claiming that he’s making “progress.”
Generally speaking, Matt Murray has been playing well for the Penguins. Of course, the scrutiny will rise if Pittsburgh loses Game 2 on Saturday.
The Capitals are also considering a tweak. CSN Mid-Atlantic reports that Barry Trotz is pondering replacing Dmitry Orlov with Taylor Chorney.
“They told me to be prepared as if I’m going to be playing,” Chorney said. “We’ll just see how it goes.”
As you may notice, Chorney isn’t the only one in wait-and-see mode heading into Game 2, which you can watch on NBC.