Niemi to Sharks and More

09/05/2010 5:22 PM -  G Checki

Antti Niemi

The San Jose Sharks recently signed Stanley Cup winning goaltender Antti Niemi to a one-year deal. We all know San Jose scores a lot of goals and wins a lot of games, but what does this mean for fantasy owners?

Despite having success in Chicago last year, there are a few concerns for Niemi’s owners. First of all, he only started 39 games during the NHL 2009-10 regular season. Similarly, he only started 38 games in 2008-09 in the AHL. His durability is a big concern; however, there is good news. Niemi probably won’t be called on to start more than 50 games this year, because the Sharks also signed Antero Niittymaki in the off-season and also have talented youngster Thomas Greiss waiting in the wings. Secondly, Niemi wasn’t the #1 starter going into last season, so he didn’t have high expectations (which won’t be the case this season). The Sharks are long overdue to at least make a Stanley Cup appearance, so all eyes will be on Niemi this season. How will he handle the pressure?

In order to fully understand the numbers Niemi will likely post, we first need to examine those of his predecessor, Evgeni Nabokov. Despite being 34 years of age last season, Nabokov posted fabulous numbers. He had a 2.43 GAA and a .922 SV%. San Jose certainly has a talented blueline with Dan Boyle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Jason Demers. They also have a ton of superstar forwards, so Niemi will get plenty of goal support. The short term expectations for Niemi should be a about a 2.50 GAA and a .915 SV%. He should win between 28 to 32 games, depending on how many games he starts. His long-term value is quite high, but not completely known because he could be a free agent again after this season.

In other goalie news, Montreal recently resigned high profile goalie Carey Price. Price’s struggles the past few seasons have been well documented and he has been roundly criticized by many members of the media.

Despite losing the starting job last post-season to Jaroslav Halak, Price was immediately ordained the #1 goalie this season because Halak was surprisingly traded to the St. Louis Blues for prospects in the offseason. There’s no doubt that Price has the talent to steal games for his team in the NHL. He also has tremendous fantasy potential, as evidenced by his spectacular rookie season.  The players in front of Price only further enhance his fantasy value.

The Habs’ blueline includes Andrei Markov, Jaroslav Spacek, Hal Gill, Roman Hamrlik and super youngster PK Subban. Their defensemen are a nice mix of offensive and defensive talent. The forward corps is skilled too with budding superstars Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec up front. Cammy and Plekanec are supported by Andrei Kostitsyn, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez. Price is certainly in a position to succeed, so his fantasy owners should be thrilled.

The only potential concern is that Price may not be mentally tough enough to succeed. Despite not being born in Quebec, Price is viewed as the potential savior of the franchise. The pressures of goaltending for hockey’s most storied franchise are high expectations for any 23 year old to endure. To make matters worse, Price has lost his cool several times in the past. While Price has all the tools to be a superstar, he simply may lack the capacity to put it all together over the long haul.

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