The Dallas Stars have bought out goaltender Antti Niemi. The 33-year-old will become an unrestricted free agent upon clearing waivers.
Stars will place Antti Niemi on waivers for purposes of a buyout.
— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) June 26, 2017
Dallas Stars Buyout Goaltender Antti Niemi
Signed to solidify the crease with Kari Lehtonen in 2015, Niemi’s career as a Star has been very disappointing. Lehtonen and Niemi combined to be one of the most expensive pairings in the National Hockey League while performing as one of the worst.
Prior to joining the Stars, Niemi had a good resume. He won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in his rookie season, joining the San Jose Sharks shortly afterward. Niemi spent five seasons in California, performing well for the Sharks. However, San Jose was never able to reach the Cup Finals with Niemi, moving on following the 2014-15 campaign.
The Dallas Stars signed Niemi to a three-year, $13.5 million contract in the summer of 2015. His first season in Dallas was mediocre at best, with a 2.67 goals-against-average (GAA) and a .905 save percentage (SV%).
In 2016-17, things got even worse for the native of Vantaa, Finland. In 37 games, Niemi was lit up for a 3.30 GAA and a .892 SV%. He had the worst save percentage among goaltenders who played 35 games or more.
The Stars were forced to make a move in goal after signing Ben Bishop to a length contract to start the offseason. Not wanting to move a prospect to shed Niemi’s salary, the buyout route is the option general manager Jim Nill has decided to go with.
The buyout will save Dallas $3 million in cap space this upcoming season. Because Niemi had one year remaining on his contract, the buyout pushes a $1.5 million cap hit into the 2018-19 season as well.
Primarily, the move clears the congestion in the Dallas crease. Bishop is the obvious starter, with Kari Lehtonen backing him up for one year until his contract expires. Niemi, the cheaper buyout, was the easy choice for Nill. Buying out Niemi leaves room for a young goalie with the Texas Stars in the AHL while giving him the ability to look for a job as a backup.