Rabid Habs

Brown: Why Antti Niemi Was Claimed Off Waivers

At around noon today, news broke that the Montreal Canadiens claimed goaltender Antti Niemi via waivers. The instant the news dropped, pandemonium ensued on social media. Paired with the impromptu press gaggle that Carey Price took part in, another goaltending controversy began.

A countless amount of people were collectively raving that Antti Niemi would take over Charlie Lindgren’s spot as the 1st goalie. There’s no reason to think that Claude Julien would pull Lindgren at this point in time knowing full well that he has kept this team afloat. His .964 save percentage and his 1.24 GAA are testaments to his capability of performing at the NHL level. Lindgren is the real deal. Considering that Charlie Lindgren has started in 4 consecutive games, Julien is very comfortable putting Lindgren into tense situations.

Antti Niemi was brought into the fold because the Carey Price ordeal has some eerie similarities to the 2015-16 season. A replica of the 2015-16 season would be disastrous. When Carey Price succumbed to his 1st injury in 2015, Mike Condon was exceptional in his first 5-10 games. Unfortunately, Condon was unable to carry the load when Carey Price was ultimately hit with a second injury. Montreal’s backup at the time, Ben Scrivens, was unable to aid Condon’s woes. Antti Niemi was acquired so he could shelter Charlie Lindgren in case everything comes crashing back down to Earth. If Lindgren succumbs to the heavy workload, an NHL caliber goalie in Antti Niemi can take over the reigns.

We also have to take into account that injuries lead to uncertain return dates. Al Montoya is out indefinitely with a concussion and Carey Price has been listed day-day. However, he hasn’t seen NHL action since November 2ndvs. the Minnesota Wild. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the air.

With Carey Price and Al Montoya out with injury, the only option for Montreal’s backup position would be Zach Fucale. For Fucale, leapfrogging from an AHL backup role to being thrust as the backup goalie for the Montreal Canadiens in the span of a week could potentially destroy his development. Adding Niemi allows Fucale to step down to an AHL starting job.

In the same breath, It’s also helping the development of Michael McNiven, who would have been Laval’s starter if not for the acquisition of Niemi. Even though Niemi’s numbers are lacking, I would be a lot more comfortable having Niemi coming in for Lindgren as opposed to Zach Fucale. Evidently, so would Marc Bergevin.

There is also familiarity with Antti Niemi and the coaching staff. When Antti Niemi led the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup back in 2010, current Montreal Canadiens goalie coach, Stephane Waite, was the goalie coach in Chicago.

And keep in mind, claiming Niemi doesn’t cost the Canadiens an asset. Bergevin is taking a flyer on a guy that might be able to help the Canadiens in the short term.

When all said and done, Antti Niemi will most likely be waived once Carey Price and Al Montoya recover from there respective injuries.

What do you think? Why did the Habs claim Niemi, and should fans be worried?