Antti Niemi (Francois Lacasse/Getty Images)
Dallas locked up Antti Niemi and though the crease looks crowded with two No. 1 Finns, GM Jim Nill is happy to have options for what is always a road-weary crew.
Conventional wisdom went out the window on the weekend when Dallas made a trade with San Jose for the rights to pending unrestricted free agent Antti Niemi. Now that the Stars have signed the starting goaltender to a three-year pact, the rationale on why a franchise that already has Kari Lehtonen between the pipes needed another goalie has been revealed.
According to Dallas GM Jim Nill, it all came down to Dallas' travel schedule, which he believes is one of the toughest in the NHL. Not only are there long flights, but also tricky back-to-backs to deal with in a division where every win is needed to have a chance at the post-season. Two starting goalies, the logic goes, are better than one.
"I know Kari went into a lot of games (this year) where he was tired or hurt, but he had to go in," Nill said. "We had no other option."
Anders Lindback, Jhonas Enroth and Jussi Rynnas all got backup starts for Dallas this season, though none posted winning records. Dallas does have a big-name prospect goalie in Jack Campbell, but Nill would prefer to see the former world junior hero in the minors for now.
"Jack Campbell is still young and needs to play a lot of hockey," he said.
To further the point, Nill noted that Philippe Desrosiers, who just finished a sparkling junior career with Rimouski, may head to ECHL Idaho in order to get a ton of minutes himself.
As for Niemi, who could have become a free agent on July 1, he was happy to join up with his former Olympic roommate.
"It's a great chance to play on one of the league's up-and-coming teams," Niemi said. "It will be great to work with Kari, we can both take advantage of this."
Not only that, but Niemi didn't like his chances on the open market. Despite being a Stanley Cup-winner with Chicago back in 2010, the Finnish netminder saw all the action swirling around his position lately and decided that the game of goalie musical chairs wasn't something he and his agent wanted to get into.
"We wanted to sign before July 1," Niemi said. "I don't think the goalie market is great now."
As for a Dallas return to the playoffs, goaltending will be just one part of the equation. The Stars were middling-to-mediocre in the shots-against department this season, with a transitional blueline. Getting full seasons from youngbloods such as John Klingberg, Patrik Nemeth and Jyrki Jokipakka will help and since the Stars just qualified Jamie Oleksiak, they clearly think he deserves at least one more campaign to break through as a regular.
But having a fresh goaltender every night will be a boon, as well.