It didn’t take long after being released by the Winnipeg Jets for Sami Niku to find work. Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin announced on Friday that the organization has signed the player to a one-year, two-way contract. The free-agent defenseman will suit up with the Habs for the 2021-22 season.
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The deal will see Niku make $750,000 in the NHL and $425,000 in the AHL, with a guaranteed salary of $475,000. As Chris Johnston of The Star wrote, Niku was hoping for a fresh start with another NHL team after having his contract mutually terminated by the Winnipeg Jets. Europe wasn’t his focus and he wanted to stay in the NHL. There were rumored teams interested right away, including, perhaps, the Boston Bruins. It was Montreal that landed the player.
Niku has a lot of upside but he’s yet to really establish himself as an NHL regular. He’s scored 80 points in 114 games in the AHL and was named the league’s top defenseman in 2017-18. The transition to the NHL hasn’t gone as smoothly as he might have liked. At the same time, this is a relatively risk-free gamble by Montreal on a 24-year-old.
As for why the Jets terminated his contract, Jets’ head coach Paul Maurice said the player has a good shot of playing in the league but he simply didn’t meet the standards the Jets had set forth for him.
Niku Getting Another Chance to Prove Himself
Some are calling the developments with Niku a stunning turn for a player whose value was quite high in 2017-1. There’s talk the Jets didn’t handle his development the right way and he could do well in another environment and with a fresh start.
He’ll get that chance in Montreal and the Habs are hoping he can come in and be effective considering they’re dealing with a string of injuries and trying to get back to being the team they showed they could be last season.
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