BROSSARD - General manager Marc Bergevin and goaltending coach Stephane Waite know Antti Niemi well, so when the 34-year-old goaltender was placed on waivers, the Canadiens jumped on the opportunity to claim him.
"Right now, we have two young goaltenders in Charlie [Lindgren] and Zach [Fucale], and then there's Al Montoya, who is out for two weeks or maybe two or three months. I have no idea. If Charlie gets hurt, we'd be left with Zach and [Michael] McNiven. We had a chance to go out and get an experienced goaltender off waivers and with the situation that we're in, especially with Al Montoya, we wanted to protect the organization in goal," explained Bergevin, during his press conference on Tuesday.
Video: Marc Bergevin on picking up Antti Niemi off waivers
Niemi won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, but the Finnish netminder hasn't been able to repeat those exploits in recent years. Bergevin is well aware of that.
"He's not the goalie he was seven or eight years ago when he won in Chicago, that's for sure. But, he's an experienced goaltender. I look at the games he played this year, I think he played Tampa three times and Chicago. He's played some high-offense teams," said Bergevin. "Stephane Waite had him in Chicago and knows him well. Again, he gives us some depth, with Monty not knowing how far off he is before he comes back. It gives us a safety net."
Acquiring Niemi will allow Bergevin to play his two young goaltenders, Lindgren being 23 and Fucale being 22.
"Fucale doesn't have experience in the NHL. Last year, he spent the majority of the year in the ECHL. This year, he's been in Laval with Charlie. It takes a goaltender longer to develop. They mature at 24 or 25 years old, so there's still a lot of time," indicated Bergevin.
And, what will happen in between the pipes when Price returns?
"When Carey is back, we'll re-evaluate our goalie situation, and same thing when Monty is back. You saw what happened with Vegas. They ended up calling up a goalie from junior. Niemi was available for us and he has experience and Steph knows him well. We're just being cautious. It provides us with an insurance policy," explained Bergevin.
"In an ideal world, you don't want a young goaltender to play two or three games per month," added Bergevin. "But, we're going to make decisions when we're forced to make them. Other things can happen. We're just protecting ourselves."
Niemi will arrive in Montreal to join his new teammates soon. He'll sport No. 37.