MONTREAL — Goaltender Antti Niemi was seeking stability more than money when he agreed to a one-year, US$950,000 contract with the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.
Who could blame the 34-year-old, who was eligible for free agency on July 1, after a whirlwind 2017-18 campaign? Niemi was bought out by the Dallas Stars last summer, signed with Pittsburgh, was claimed on waivers by Florida and then claimed again by Montreal.
"The way I felt when I was playing in Montreal, I was comfortable there," Niemi said on a conference call. "I didn't need to change that.
"It wasn't about getting the most money."
Niemi was 0-3-0 with a 7.49 goals-against average when Pittsburgh placed him on waivers on Oct. 24, and he was 0-1-1 with a 5.11 average — allowing five goals on 39 shots in two appearances — when he was put on waivers again by the Panthers on Nov. 14.
But the Finnish veteran settled down nicely when claimed that day by Montreal, where he was reunited with goalie coach Stephane Waite. The two had worked together when Niemi backstopped the Chicago Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup in 2010.
With the Canadiens, Niemi went 7-5-4 with a 2.46 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage.
The club now has two goalies on one-way contracts vying for the job as back up to Carey price next season — Niemi and prospect Charlie Lindgren, who signed a three-year extension on Feb. 13. It could make for a fierce battle in training camp, but at least whichever gets sent to AHL Laval will earn his full NHL salary.
Niemi was just glad that his stint in Montreal showed he can still play top-level hockey.
He said what prompted him to sign was "how last season went and how I was able to bounce back."
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press