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Stars goaltender Niemi signs three-year contract

NHL.com @NHL

Goaltender Antti Niemi signed a three-year contract with the Dallas Stars on Monday. Financial terms of the contract were not announced, but Sportsnet reported it has an average annual value of $4.5 million.

Niemi could have become an unrestricted free agent Wednesday.

Dallas acquired Niemi's negotiating rights from the San Jose Sharks on Saturday for a 2015 seventh-round pick.

"We explored every angle of it. We had our meetings back in May, and we went to the free agent list for our different options for goaltending," Stars general manager Jim Nill said. "We knew we had to make some changes, and there's two ways we could have gone. One way was the free agent route, and the other way was to make a trade using either draft picks, prospects or players off the team.

"Antti was the No. 1 UFA that we had targeted, and we went over the course of the last 4-6 weeks, I've been talking to teams, seeing what the other options were going to be, and in the end, Antti always came up as the No. 1 choice."

Niemi spent five seasons as the Sharks' starting goalie. In 296 games he went 163-92-35 with a 2.40 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and 25 shutouts. He's second on the Sharks' all-time list to Evgeni Nabokov in games, wins and shutouts.

"It's a great time be able to play with one the up-and-coming teams who has lots of talent," Niemi, who won the Stanley Cup in 2010 with the Chicago Blackhawks, said of joining Dallas.

The Stars also have goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who is signed through the 2017-18 season. Lehtonen has been Dallas' starter for the past five seasons, going 148-97-38.

Niemi said he has yet to speak with Lehtonen, who Niemi said he knows and has roomed with playing for their native country of Finland during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

"I knew him a little before because we used to live not far from each other growing up," Niemi said.

Nill said the plan is for each goalie to get significant playing time.

"I talked to Kari Lehtonen, and he's actually very excited about it. He thinks it's going to be great," Nill said. "Kari and I talked, and the travel in the West is probably as tough as it can get, and in Dallas, probably worse than a lot of other teams. Between the travel, the back-to-back situations, how close our division -- if it's not the toughest, it's one of the toughest -- the competition, a win here on the road, a win there in a back-to-back, if a goalie gets injured, we know we now have that covered."

Niemi said he sees potential in the Stars' young group of defensemen, and is excited for a goalie competition.

"It's going to be great to be able to work with Kari," Niemi said. "… It's going to be a challenge. It also gives you a chance to work with the goalie coach, and let your body recover. There's two sides. In the NHL, you have lots of games so there's room for two guys playing a lot."

" … As a goalie, it matters on how you play, so it really doesn't matter who you're playing with as the other guy. You just have to be able to take of yourself, and work hard, and be able to play every day."

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