With Ryan Miller Injured, Should Canucks Rent Niemi?

News broke this morning that Vancouver Canucks’ starting goaltender Ryan Miller will be out for a minimum four to six weeks and perhaps longer after awkwardly colliding with teammate Jannik Hansen.

Statistically speaking Miller hasn’t been quite up to his normal standards in his first year in Vancouver. His current .913 save percentage is a smidgen lower than his career .915 mark. However, a couple of months back Miller was sporting a .906 mark so he has been playing better in recent months. Still considered one of the top goaltenders in the league, the long time Buffalo Sabre netminder leaves the Canucks in a bit of a bind. Do they ride with backup netminder Eddie Lack? The second year goalie is sporting a .917 save percentage in 15 starts but last season in 37 starts finished with a .912 mark. Recently recalled Jacob Markstrom is a monster at 6’6″ and bigger goalies are becoming more popular around the league. Pekka Rinne and Ben Bishop are a couple of larger goaltenders performing well in the league right now. The 25-year-old has posted a .932 save percentage this season down in the AHL and maybe he is just a late bloomer like the aforementioned Bishop. Perhaps the Canucks will be fully comfortable rolling the dice with these two goaltenders.

 Antti Niemi to Vancouver?

San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi  (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)
San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

However, if the Canucks want to upgrade their goaltending for the short term with a reliable veteran presence, there are few better options than San Jose’s Antti Niemi. While it may seem counter intuitive to think the Sharks would trade their No. 1 goaltender, to a division rival no less, when they are just three points behind Vancouver, it actually makes sense. Yes, San Jose is just three points behind the second place Canucks but Vancouver also has two games in hand. The Sharks are floundering, are currently on the outside looking in at the playoffs, and seem much closer to being sellers than buyers. Niemi is a pending unrestricted free agent and reports suggest the Sharks are open to dealing the Stanley Cup winner. Certainly the Sharks would prefer to move Niemi to the Eastern Conference but working to Vancouver’s advantage is that there are few playoff teams in need of a rental goaltender. If there were more teams in need of goaltending, Niemi would quite possibly fetch a first round pick but at this point a second round pick is likely the best return San Jose can hope for.

Now Niemi certainly hasn’t lit the league on fire in his contract year, but he does have an identical save percentage to that of Miller this season, .913. Furthermore, the Canucks would be getting a goaltender who is well accustomed to playing on an every night basis and one that does a good job staying healthy. Outside starting the 2011-12 season on the mend due to the removal of a cyst on his knee, Niemi has hardly missed any time in his four plus years with the Sharks. For a No. 1 netminder, Niemi doesn’t have a high cap hit at just $3.8 million so there should be little to no worries about fitting him under the salary cap regardless of any other moves GM Jim Benning is looking to make before the deadline. Given the market price for Niemi being cheaper than the norm, it should be something the Canucks look into. From the Sharks’ perspective, a second round pick would be a nice pickup as they try and regroup from an incredibly disappointing past 10 months.

32 thoughts on “With Ryan Miller Injured, Should Canucks Rent Niemi?”

  1. It is not going to happen. First, like you say that means you throw in a towel which will empty even more seats at SAP center. Second, you are helping Pacific Division rival to make a playoffs appearance – the media and fans will blast Sharks organization so much that they will consider moving to Seattle…

    • Doing nothing and hoping to make the playoffs as currently constructed would be a wasted opportunity to improve for the future. If the Sharks are serious about winning the Stanley Cup, at some point, that means having to bite the bullet on the current season, to improve chances in future seasons. Lots of fans and media would applaud the move of getting something for Niemi instead of risking losing him for nothing over the summer. A lot of fans want to see what Stalock can do with more ice time. Clearly that isn’t happening with Niemi around.

      • Niemi might get traded but not to Vancouver and not before March 2 . Vancouver might as well see what Eddie Lack can do.

  2. that is a ridiculous idea. a 2nd rounder for a guy is a playoff failure? Hell…even in the year the Hawks won the cup with Niemi the canucks absolutely LIT him up in the round we played against them. Unfortunately for us the Lu was lit up by the hawks even more.

    And then we absolutely lit him up again in 2011. 5 easy games against the sharks. What’s he done in the past couple years? Nothing of consequence. Sure he’s not to blame for the sharks recent playoff disasters, but it’s not like he’s ever stolen a series has he?

    At best I might consider giving a late round pick for the guy.

    But really I’d rather not even have him. Lack is quite capable of carrying the team so long as Markstrom can give him a rest from time to time. And I think Markstrom is finally ready to deliver some decent NHL starts. Lack did a great job last year when Lu was traded….the only problem was Torts rode him TOO hard and burned him out.

    I’ve never liked Niemi. He’s just simply NOT that good. I think GMJB is smart enough to not make a deal like that and waste a second round pick.

    The canucks are NOT winning the cup this year so there is NO sense doing rash things for no purpose. That trade smells of desperation and the canucks are no longer a desperate team.

    • 2nd rounder isn’t giving up the farm. For a No. 1 goalie rental that is a pretty fair price. Niemi is playing for a new contract, all the incentive in the world to have a hot finish, especially if dealt at the deadline. Also, while yes he was mediocre in winning the cup, he has at times been terrific in the playoffs. 2013 when he was nominated for the Vezina, he sported a ,930.

      • yeah but again…it’s just pointless. Niemi doesn’t offer the canucks any more benefit than simply sticking with Lack and seeing how he can do. Lack has a better save percentage and better GAA than Niemi in spite of basically having to start sporadically. Lack has already showed he can handle pressure. Last year’s numbers for both guys are virtually meaningless.

        Plus it’s wasting cap space if there is a better trade to be made.

        And it’s not like miller is going to be out forever. Even if it’s “6 weeks” that still puts miller back for the playoffs if we make it in. If not…..whatever…better draft position and maybe even a long shot chance at the top pick. So it’s just wasting a 2nd round pick.

  3. That’d be the sort of trade the Sharks probably should consider. Niemi is coming off a couple good games, so his price is a bit higher than it was a week ago. Stalock needs to get a run of games to see if he can develop. The Sharks need answers on Stalock, its not OK for him to remain a question mark. He’s been bad this year, was better last year. But if you look at Stalock when he gets several games in a short period of time, he’s actually been pretty good this season.

    As for Vancouver, its clear that their playoff chances took a nose-dive with Miller going down. And there aren’t many goalies available who can step into that role who are on the market and meet Vancouver’s trade requirements (price, experience, length of contract). Of course, the Sharks do own the right to Nabby, in case he’s already tired of being retired …

    • it seems like a no brainer deal for both sides. Vancouver is far more likely to make the postseason right now than San Jose, the Sharks would get something for him and the Canucks wouldn’t have to give up the farm.

      • its anything but a no brainer. DW and TMc may both have their jobs on the line, no one really knows what Hasso is thinking these days. I bet DW and TMc have a sense on what getting a playoff spot means to their futures in SJ. And if making the playoffs is a job requirement, mgmt may see keeping Niemi as their only choice.

        As for Vancouver having the better shot at the postseason, well, if they have to use Eddie Lack for 15 games and his backup for a few more before a rusty Ryan Miller returns for the last few regular season games, their playoff chances are a lot less certain.

        • talent wise, i think SJ should be better than Van but the Nucks have found a way to get into a better position. If SJ isn’t going to buy, and they don’t look like they will, they should be interested in moving Niemi. I have to believe Hasso is smarter than keeping or firing Wilson based off making the playoffs or missing them. There are tons of variables to be sure, who knows what is in the heads of all the decision makers, but on paper it makes a lot of sense for both clubs.

  4. Yes, Andrew it is rare to trade a player who’s in the first year o their contract but it’s also rare that a GM asks a player to waive the no trade clause but Benning got Jason Garrison to do the same thing. Miller is out between 4-6 weeks so it depends it depends if Wilson is willing to wait for Miller. Not likely but if you’re going to trade Niemi then you’ve lost him and won’t have him anyways. This trade wouldn’t likely happen but it would be interesting if it did.

    • Id love Miller as a Shark but just doesn’t seem to fit with what they are doing and can’t see vancouver wanting to move him.

  5. So a team you are chasing for a playoff spot just lost their starting goaltender and the idea is to try to help them? I get that this season seems to be circling the drain, but I’d rather see Miller going down as a glimmer of hope that a team in front of us might start struggling and allow us to gain ground.

    • some might argue you are hurting the Canucks by giving them Niemi……..Goalie is the byproduct of the defense in front of him, if a team is committed to playing defense, it should not matter that much who you put back there.

    • this Sharks team isn’t in a position to win in the playoffs as is and they don’t seem to want to be a buyer at the deadline. It would be beneficial to get something back for Niemi instead of nothing if he walks as UFA at the end of the season.

    • With Chicago yes, referred to him as a cup winner in the piece. Although there is a caveat with that, he was pretty average in those playoffs behind one of the best groups of 18 skaters ever assembled.

        • Stalock obviously is unproven, and has not been paying well lately, this would clearly be a move that shows they are throwing in the towel on this season.

        • No the question is, are the knuckleheads ready to play defense. Stalock or Niemi it does not matter. It matters what the 5 skaters decide they are going to do. There are not many situations like saturday night. where Niemi just gives up a bad goal like he did on the game winner, but again that all started with Burns getting picked by Gaborik…that should not happen. D man makes a mistake or is careless and it ends up in the back of the net, of course it is nice when the goalie can bail you out more times than not especially in crucial situations.

    • Niemi and Miller are having comparable seasons, the reason why Vancouver is overachieving and the Sharks are floundering is because Vancouver competes harder, and plays defense within the scheme the coaches give them. Sharks players keep repeating the same mistakes expecting different results…they are insane.

  6. This is an interesting suggestion. Niemi would probably fit in well with an “older” group in VAN and he’s apparently on the block. If Benning could get him at a reasonable price, I think the Canucks would be the better for it this season. I wouldn’t have a ton of faith in Lack/Markstrom to get the Canucks too far. A seasoned goalie would likely stand a better chance of getting them into the playoffs.

    • outside these two being division rivals now, it would be a good move for each side. A single second round pick to rent a No. 1 caliber goaltender is a very cheap price. San Jose (whom i cover regularly) is in a spot where they should get whatever they can for him because chances are slim they are going to do anything in the playoffs even if they are able to get in. Right now they are on the outside looking in and it would be silly of them to keep Niemi and risk him signing for big money somewhere like Edmonton, Minnesota, or Buffalo.

      • If the Sharks make the playoffs why is it slim they would be able to do anything? I actually think the opposite, if they make the playoffs, I think they can make a deep run. The Sharks are out of the playoffs right now, and so in order to make the playoffs they are going to have to get hot, especially if they want to stay out of the wildcard picture. If the Sharks get hot and make the playoffs, many teams have shown, it does not matter how you get it just how you are playing when you are in. If this gets hot and makes the playoffs, which is the only they will get in basically, they will have momentum, and really facing Anaheim ( who they own) 0r Calgary or Vancouver or LA, you have to like their chances against any of those teams except LA. I actually think if they make it this is the perfect storm for them to go gar, low expectations, tons of confidence going in…..very talented roster.

        • They won’t need to win 7 in a row like LA to get in, certainly they will have to be better than recent skid but they could get in without being crazy hot. Also, they simply don’t have the depth, nor D nor goaltending do beat other playoff clubs.

      • What would be even better would be for the Canucks to trade Miller to San Jose for Niemi and that way SJ gets Miller for the playoffs who’s a big game goalie and gives them a chance to go for the cup for the next 2 years with Thornton and Marleau both signed to the same time period.

          • Actually – I’m saying it from both perspectives. Benning has said he’s open to doing what’s best for now and the future. The Sharks want to win and cup, have complained about the goalies for the past few years and Miller is a definite upgrade from Niemi.

            • Yes but like I said, it is incredibly rare to trade any player the very first season after signing him to a multi-year deal. Plus he is hurt, Sharks woudn’t want to trade for an injured goalie

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