With Sami Niku having played just four times in basically the last two months and the fact he has dropped to no better than eighth on the depth chart, the Habs placed him on waivers on Wednesday for the purpose of sending him to Laval.
It’s the second time he has been waived this season although the first time was for the purpose of contract termination. He walked away from a one-way deal in Winnipeg to try to catch on somewhere where he’d have a chance for more regular playing time. That resulted in him signing a two-way deal with Montreal three days later, one that carried one of the highest AHL salaries in the league.
The decision made sense for the 25-year-old in that Montreal’s back end was undergoing some changes and the team didn’t replace the offensive production that Erik Gustafsson provided down the stretch (and a little in the playoffs). However, an early injury set him back and since then, he has basically been as advertised – good in the offensive zone and not so good everywhere else.
Niku has a respectable six assists in 13 games this season while logging a little over 15 minutes per game. However, it’s evident that Kale Clague has passed him on the depth chart and Joel Edmundson is due back at some point this season although no one seems to have the slightest clue when that will be with his injury recovery not going as well as anyone had hoped. As a result, this move gives him a chance to play, either in the minors or with another organization.
With Niku being on a minimum-salary contract in the NHL, it’s quite possible that he’s picked up by a team looking for some short-term depth. If he clears, he will be sent to Laval (he’s ineligible for the taxi squad) and would give the Rocket a big boost on the back end.
Speaking of a boost on the back end for Laval, the Habs assigned Corey Schueneman back to the Rocket from the taxi squad in advance of their road trip to Texas. Josh Brook was also officially activated off season-opening IR and sent down although he’s not ready to return just yet. When that happens and if Niku clears, the Rocket could soon boast one of the top defences in the AHL.