Tag: Dallas Stars

Antti Niemi

Stars say Niemi was top target, but still have faith in ‘elite’ Lehtonen


SUNRISE — Dallas GM Jim Nill knew he needed to upgrade his goaltending position.

So on the second day of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, he did exactly that.

Following Saturday’s intriguing trade — acquiring Antti Niemi’s negotiating rights from San Jose for a seventh-round pick, ahead of free agency opening on July 1 — Nill said Niemi was always the club’s primary target to pair with incumbent No. 1 Kari Lehtonen.

“[Niemi] was the top guy that we targeted as a free agent, if we were going to go that route,” Nill explained. “You don’t like to lose picks, but it was a chance to get the guy, let’s talk to him and try to get a deal done.

“You don’t know where the goalie market’s going to go. It can change fast. We knew it was a position we had to take care of.”

Nill said Dallas was already “very close” to signing Niemi, who brings a wealth of experience with him to Texas. A Vezina nominee in 2013, the veteran Finn has started at least 60 games in four of the last five seasons and notched a career-high 39 wins in ’13-14.

So, what does that mean for Lehtonen?

“Kari’s still an elite goalie,” Nill explained. “We’re in a tough situation with our travel. We probably travel as much as anybody in the league, back-to-back games, I really think it’s becoming a two-goalie league now.

“Kari’s the first one to admit he had a tough year last year. He’s going to bounce back. He’s been working on changing his conditioning over the summer, and competition’s healthy. Our goal is to win the Cup and this is going to help us get there.”

It’ll be interesting to see how Niemi fits in Dallas, both in terms of finances and with Lehtonen. At 31, it’s unlikely Niemi will score as big a deal as his previous one — a four-year, $15.2 million deal with a $3.8M cap hit — and it remains to be seen how he’ll co-exist with his fellow countryman (the two were teammates on Finland’s bronze medal-winning team at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi).

To hear Nill explain it, though, money wasn’t going to get in the way of landing the guy he wanted.

“We have cap room right now,” he said. “We knew we had to improve this position, so we went this direction.”

Stars acquire rights to Niemi

Antti Niemi

SUNRISE — The Dallas Stars have acquired goalie Antti Niemi from the San Jose Sharks. As Niemi is a pending unrestricted free agent, the return was limited to a seventh-round pick (193rd overall) in today’s draft.

The Stars now hold Niemi’s negotiating rights until June 30.

Dallas was expected to address its goaltending this offseason. The position was a major issue for the Stars last season — perhaps the number-one reason they missed the playoffs.

In Niemi, they get a former Stanley Cup winner and Vezina finalist.

“Antti is a proven goaltender who has played and succeeded at the highest levels,” GM Jim Nill said in a release. “He’s one of the hardest working goalies out there and we look forward to working towards an agreement.”

If Niemi signs, he’ll presumably form a tandem with fellow Finn Kari Lehtonen, who still has three years left on his contract.

Related: UFA of the Day: Antti Niemi

Get to know a draft pick — Connor McDavid

Erie Otters v Windsor Spitfires

Like we’ve done in the past, we’re profiling top prospects who may hear their names called Friday in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. But this year, something new — we’re featuring special guest analysis from former Minnesota Wild scout Mark Seidel, who currently serves as the president of North American Central Scouting.

Connor McDavid (C)

Height: 6’1 Weight: 195 Shoots: Left

Team: Erie Otters (OHL)

Country: Canada

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 1 among North American Skaters

What kind of player is he?

The clear-cut top prospect in this year’s draft, viewed by many as the kind of talent that comes around once every 10-15 years. For all of McDavid’s exploits this season — OHL Player of the Year, CHL Player of the Year — the feather in his cap might’ve been an outrageous run through the Ontario League playoffs; he scored an eye-bulging 21 goals and 49 points in 20 games and put together a highlight reel of goals, further cementing him as the type of dynamic player that will make an immediate impact in Edmonton next season.

Seidel says:

“McDavid is a generational talent that’s been in the spotlight since he was 13 years old, and has excelled on all of the big stages. An offensive force, he’s a natural set-up man with deft passing ability — but he’ll still score his fair share of goals with his innate ability to capitalize on opportunities. McDavid also has incredible quickness, a hockey IQ that’s off the charts and will instantly create offense in the NHL.”

NHL comparable: Sidney Crosby/Tyler Seguin