It’s amazing to think about…looking over the extensive list of FA’s still available in the NHL, that the goalie of the Stanley Cup winning team is not only ripe for the picking for 30 teams, but won’t even be back on his team next season.
Niemi, still unproven to a degree, and only 26 years old, would be a valuable commodity for any team in need of goaltending help. Would one of those teams be the New York Islanders? Let me tell you why I think the Islanders & Niemi just go together, sort of like Lamb & Tuna Fish.
Goaltending Uncertainty: Rick DiPietro, one of the crown jewels of CBA circumvention, has a very suspect lower body after surgeries on his hip and knee. He showed, in brief stints last season, that he could still play but can his body hold up anymore? Dwayne Roloson, the Isles saving grace last season, turns 41 in October, and can’t be counted on to be that lights out again. Marty Biron, the other goalie in the Fish Sticks’ goalie carousel from last year, left for the New York Rangers this off-season. A young, Stanley-cup winning goalie could be the answer.
Reaching the Salary Cap Floor: The Islanders currently sit just this side of a million short of the $44 million salary floor required by all NHL teams. If GM Garth Snow isn’t going to improve his offense or defense, shoring up your goaltending is the next way to go. If Niemi is willing to do a short-term deal (2-3 years), or even a Marian Hossa-eaque 1 year deal, Islanders fans would sign up in a heartbeat.
Small Market: Since we’ve seen most teams sign their goalies, and some prominent names bolt to the KHL, there aren’t many spots left. Teams that have the cap space, such as the Thrashers and Oilers, have taken care of their goalie situations while teams that needed new net minders, like the Flyers and Sharks, made their decisions already. The Islanders might be the only place for Niemi to go, kinda like going to an island….by himself….to go play for the ISLANDERS…bad joke.
The only other team that could make sense is the Montreal Canadians. After shipping out playoff savior Jaroslav Halak, much to the dismay of Le Habitants, Carey Price could be given the keys to the kingdom. But, if Montreal brass feel Price needs some healthy competition, Niemi’s agent might be getting a phone call or two.