A day after the NHL trade deadline, the San Jose Sharks have sealed up their goaltending situation for the foreseeable future by signing Antti Niemi to a four-year contract extension worth $15.2 million. That's an average annual value of $3.8 million a year, which thrusts Niemi into the upper realm of the goalie market.
It comes a little over 24 hours after goaltender Jimmy Howard signed for just two years and $2.25 million per year, and given that fact, the two will certainly be linked together and compared. There's no doubt that Niemi has performed better than Howard this season, though.
While some will certainly argue that the difference between Niemi and Howard is negligible at best, Niemi has basically propelled the Sharks into the Stanley Cup contention all by himself. Howard, meanwhile, sits behind a stellar team in Detroit that can certainly cover his transgressions.
Niemi proves with this contract that a well-timed stretch of hot play can be enough to earn you a big contract. With the 2011 free agent market set to be competitive for goaltenders, Niemi would have likely earned about $4 million per season from somebody. With his hot play of late, Doug Wilson made sure to lock him up.
So the big, looming question now is "how long does he keep this up?" If Niemi can play like he's played in the last few months for the rest of the four-year deal, then it's obviously a great move. Will he be a $3.8 million player in four years, though? That's what remains to be seen.
For more on the Sharks and this contract signing, visit Fear The Fin.