Of course, when a goaltender like Ryan Miller hits the market, people on the outside looking in will look at a team like the Pittsburgh Penguins and suggest they’d be a good match.
While that’s possible, and the organization wouldn’t mind having Miller between the pipes next season, it’d be smart to just avoid signing him in general.
Yes, Miller’s addition would help, but Marc-Andre Fleury wasn’t the reason as to why Pittsburgh failed yet again this postseason. If anything, their defense, as well as inconsistent production on the offensive end was more detrimental to their Cup hopes – not Fleury.
Did he still make some costly errors? Yes. But Fleury, for the most part, kept Pittsburgh afloat, and believe it or not deserves another go with the team next season. For those anti-Fleury beings, you won’t have to fret, because he’ll be an unrestricted free agent following the 2014-15 campaign, and the chances the Pens’ re-sign him are slim.
And that’s when they make their move to replace him. Because after this next season, San Jose Sharks’ goaltender Antti Niemi – barring an extension this summer – will be available for Pittsburgh to go out and sign.
Niemi has been one of the more underrated netminders in the league over recent years, and would be a tremendous asset to Pittsburgh’s Cup hopes. Not too long ago, it was Niemi who was raising Lord Stanley’s chalice with Chicago, before he ventured off to San Jose.
Although Niemi had a rough playoffs against the Los Angeles Kings – which saw L.A. come back from a 3-0 series deficit – his experience playing in the postseason, and in the grueling Western Conference, would come in handy for Pittsburgh. Excluding his postseason performance this year, Niemi owned a 1.87 goals-against-average for the 2013 playoffs, and with a change of scenery, he could rekindle those efforts.
Granted, no goaltender is going to survive in Pittsburgh until they deliver a better defensive wall, but because Pittsburgh is in line to adapt their young blue-line prospects this next season, Niemi could show up just in time. Now, as far as how long Pittsburgh would sign Niemi to is uncertain, because they possess some promising goaltending prospects as well. So, if Niemi were to agree to, say, a two-year deal, Pittsburgh shouldn’t hesitate to sign him.
There’s no denying the fact Miller would be a fine add, but he struggled mightily this postseason, with one of the best defenses in the league protecting his net with him. Perhaps Miller just needed a trial run, considering he’s been dormant from the playoffs for so long, but the purse he’ll be trying to garner may also be too much for Pittsburgh’s payroll.
Besides, scooping Miller up would only create a goalie controversy, given Fleury is on board for another year. So, it only makes sense the team would vie for Niemi in 2015.
Either way, Fleury won’t be in a Pens’ sweater much longer.