The San Jose Sharks have rewarded goaltender Antti Niemi for his strong play of late.
On Tuesday, San Jose signed the 27-year-old to a four-year, $15.2 million US contract extension, preventing him from testing the free agent waters after this season.
"We wanted Antti to remain a San Jose Shark and he wanted to be here," Doug Wilson, the Sharks' executive vice-president and general manager, said in a statement.
"Once he got through his expected integration period with our club, Antti's play has been outstanding and, just as important, he has consistently been a great teammate. And like many of his teammates over this past year, he worked with us on a contract that fits within our team structure and enables us to keep our group intact."
The Fin started off slowly, winning only one of his first five games with a 3.93 goals-against average, but began a resurgence after the new year, going 14-2-1 since Jan. 15 with a 1.84 GAA while starting every game in that span.
"He's been huge in this run of games," forward Patrick Marleau said. "He's been back there stopping all those key shots, making the hard saves look easy and making timely saves. He's been huge for us back there. He looks like he's having fun back there and playing well. We just have to keep playing well in front of him."
He has been a sparkplug in the Sharks' climb in the standings, who sit atop the Pacific Division and in third place overall in the tough Western Conference with 78 points.
"Nemo has been very good for us," coach Todd McLellan said. "He's there as a steadying influence now. Our guys really believe in him. They feel comfortable when he's in goal. Should we make mistakes, he's there to cover up for us.
"On the other side, I think he feels comfortable. He knows we're able to get him a little run support and that everyone is working had for him. Right now it's a powerful thing."
The 6-2, 210-pound goalie led the Chicago Blackhawks to their first Stanley Cup title since 1961 last season while posting a 16-6 mark in 22 playoff games.
Overall, Niemi is 23-15-3, with a .919 save percentage and a 2.44 GAA to go along with five shutouts this season.With files from The Associated Press