Antti Niemi waived by Pittsburgh Penguins; Claimed by Florida Panthers

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Antti Niemi
TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 12: Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Antti Niemi (31) in the 2nd period of the NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning on October 12, 2017 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Update: The Florida Panthers, who recently lost goaltender Roberto Luongo with a right hand injury, have claimed Niemi.

Below is our article on Niemi from yesterday.

 

After posting a 7.49 goals-against average and .797 save percentage in his first three starts, Antti Niemi was put on waivers Monday by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Penguins haven’t closed the door on keeping Niemi

Just because the Pens put Niemi on waivers doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re done with the 34-year-old Finn.

“(Starting Niemi in the minors) would be a great option,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “To give him an opportunity to get in some ideal circumstances and give him an opportunity to build his confidence in an environment that’s not as high-stakes as the one we’re in here.”

Niemi’s numbers are horrible, but he’s also had to face elite offenses in the Tampa Bay Lightning (twice) and Chicago Blackhawks. All three of his appearances came when Pittsburgh was playing its second game in as many nights, and though the Penguins have won two consecutive Stanley Cups, they’ll never get accused of being one of the most defensively-sound teams in the NHL.

“It’s never an ideal circumstance (playing in the back end of back-to-backs),  Sullivan said, “but that’s part of the challenge of that role on the team.”

Niemi’s NHL career may also be over

It’s also quite possible that Niemi has played in the final game of his National Hockey League career, considering how his numbers have steadily regressed over the past few seasons.

Last year, Niemi posted a 12-14-4 record, 3.30 GAA and .892 save percentage in 37 games for the Dallas Stars. In 2014-15, Niemi was 25-13-7 for the high-scoring Stars, but his goals-against average (2.67) and save percentage (.905) were both the worst of his career at the time.

It’s hard to remember that nine years ago, Niemi went 26-7-4 in 39 starts for the Chicago Blackhawks, sporting a 2.25 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. He also enjoyed a stellar four seasons with the San Jose Sharks, boasting a 132-69-28 record from 2010-14.

The Sharks cut bait with Niemi following the 2014-15 season, in which he was just 31-23-7 with a 2.59 GAA and .914 save percentage despite playing for a Western Conference power. Perhaps the Sharks saw the writing on the wall.

Penguins turn to a rookie to back up Murray

Tristan Jarry will serve as the backup to Penguins’ number-one goaltender Matt Murray, at least for now.

Jarry is 1-2 with a 3.97 GAA and .883 save percentage in three starts this year with the American Hockey League’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. He made his NHL debut last year in Pittsburgh’s final game of the regular season, stopping 22 of 25 shots in a 3-2 loss to the Rangers – though he did make a lasting impression.

The Penguins are scheduled to play on consecutive nights twice during a western road trip that begins Saturday in Winnipeg, so it’s likely that we’ll see Jarry in action pretty soon.

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images

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