Goaltender Antti Niemi claimed off waivers by Panthers

Antti Niemi with San Jose in 2014, Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography

The Panthers announced on Tuesday afternoon that they’ve claimed goaltender Antti Niemi off waivers from the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

The move comes after Roberto Luongo suffered a freak hand injury in the 3rd period of Friday’s tilt with the same Penguins.

Forward Conor Sheary collided with the side of the net, pinning Luongo’s right blocker hand between his body and the post.

Luongo immediately reacted, throwing off his blocker and inspecting things before the Panthers’ trainer ran out onto the ice.

The Panthers placed Luongo on the injured reserve on Saturday and head coach Bob Boughner said he’d be reevaluated on a day-to-day basis.

He’ll be eligible to return to the lineup no earlier than a week from Saturday.

Niemi, on the other hand, has struggled to start his 2017-18 campaign, compiling an 0-3-0 record.

The 34-year old native of Finland signed a one-year deal with the Penguins at the start of free-agency on July 1 after the Dallas Stars bought out the final year of his three-year, $13.5 million contract on June 27th.

A veteran of 426 games in the NHL, Niemi has posted a 0.797 save percentage and a sky-high 7.50 goals-against average in three outings this season.

“Antti is a proven veteran who further stabilizes our organization’s goaltending depth,” said General Manager Dale Tallon. “We’re happy to welcome him to South Florida.”

He allowed 4 goals on 13 shots in just over 9 minutes of action in the Penguins’ second game of the season on October 5, allowed 5 goals on 34 shots a week later, and 7 goals on 32 shots three days ago on October 21.

Niemi won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 and finished tied for first in the NHL with 24 wins in 43 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

The Panthers recalled Harri Sateri, who they signed to a one-year, two-way deal out of the KHL on July 1, to back up James Reimer on Saturday against the Capitals, but today’s waiver claim suggests they may not trust him in the role as much as they once did.

Sateri has allowed 9 goals over two games to start the season in the AHL with the Springfield Thunderbirds, but part of that is indicative of the team in front of him which lost its first 6 games.

The Panthers face the Canadiens in Montreal on Tuesday at 7:30pm.

Niemi will wear jersey number 31.

McCann on the shelf

Jared McCann has joined Luongo on the injured reserve.

McCann suffered a lower-body injury against the Capitals on Saturday and left the game after a 54-second shift in the 2nd period.

The 21-year old has 5 points, including 2 goals and 3 assists, in 7 games this season for the Panthers.

The move opened a spot for the Panthers to claim Niemi off waivers without having to send Sateri back to the AHL.

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