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.