Antti Niemi has finally found himself a home.
After weeks of speculation regarding Niemi's future, the Stanley Cup winning goaltender will reportedly sign with the San Jose Sharks for roughly $2 million. According to Nick Kypreos, the deal could be for only one year.
Two million would be $750,000 less than his arbitration number with Chicago, further adding to the evidence that Niemi's agent Billy Zito failed him miserably. There is no doubt that Chicago offered Niemi around $2 million at some point during pre-arbitration negotiations, and Niemi would likely rather play for that money at home where he was adored by fans and teammates. Instead, he'll head to San Jose for about $2 million less than what his agent was hoping for.
Zito's comments to reporters and radio hosts in June portrayed a man in a position of leverage. He placed himself above the media, the Blackhawks, and worst of all, his client. His interviews made you walk away saying "there's no way that guy agrees to a deal." Obviously, Zito didn't do his homework. The goalie market was bare and Niemi was close to being forced to take his talents to the KHL. It's not every day that a Stanley Cup winning goalie can't find a job 3 months later, but Zito should have seen it coming. The Blackhawks sure did.
The part that some may overlook is that the Sharks are getting a very good goalie. Former Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov's stats would tell you he is good too, but the eye test tells a different story. Nabokov is not clutch, plain and simple. He chokes in the playoffs, he choked in the Olympics for Russia, and he falters in big regular season games (remember Hossa's first game as a Hawk?).
Niemi, on the other hand, is a gamer. His stats tend to balance out to slightly above average, but he makes big saves in key moments. Adding clutch goaltending to an already dangerous Sharks team is scary. This is all assuming Niemi eventually starts over Antero Nittymaki, of course.
Antti Niemi will never be forgotten in Chicago. People can call him the "Rex Grossman" of the Blackhawks all they'd like, but he made saves early in the playoffs that kept the Hawks afloat. Game 2 of both the Nashville and Vancouver series' come to mind. Oh, and the entire Western Conference Finals against, you guessed it, San Jose.
Outside of next year's playoffs, I wish Antti Niemi luck.
Bill Zito? I wish him a bad case of herpes.