Rick DiPietro waltzed through the first round of the Not-So-Sweet Sixteen, and his second-round match-up will end up being against a fellow goaltender. Nikolai Khabibulin and Antti Niemi are both pretty egregious mistakes, mostly because both were asinine from the minute the deals were signed. Both the Oilers and Sharks bet big money and significant term on goaltenders based on short-term performance rather than their long-term results. We'll take a look at each player after the jump.
Relentless incompetence. Tyler was talking about management then, and boy oh boy, not much has changed. We all knew this was terrible at the time, and if we didn't, it sure does look terrible now. The Extreme DUI conviction. The string of injuries. The poor performances married to media members who chant MVP whenever Khabibulin touches the puck. The 35+ clause that makes the cap hit stick like glue. If he retires, it's still there. If he's in the minors, it's still there. If he's bought out, it's still there. The only saving grace for this deal is that it will one day be over.
It's hard to understand the Sharks giving this contract to Niemi so soon after throwing Evgeni Nabokov on the scrap heap. It looked for all the world like this summer was going to be the beginning of Doug Wilson following the "cheap in goal" model, but when he saw what strong goaltending could look like - Niemi's been very good this season - he jumped at the chance to lock up the goalie providing it. Tragically, Niemi's long-term history doesn't suggest he'll be providing it over the long haul. His EV save percentage in the NHL is slightly above average at .921 over 2506 shots, basically one good season and one poor one. His lack of success in other leagues makes it seem likely that the Sharks won't end up with anything better than average netminding, and a 3.8M cap hit is an awful lot to pay for average.