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The Blackhawks have decided to walk away from the arbitration award for goaltender Antti Niemi, making him an unrestricted free agent, and have signed veteran Marty Turco to a one-year contract.
At a Sunday session of the Blackhawks Convention, GM Stan Bowman discussed yesterday’s arbitration award of $2.75 million to goaltender Antti Niemi:
“There are always options in every decision,” Bowman said Sunday during a panel discussion at the 2010 Blackhawks Convention. "You have to weigh what it would take, what it would do to your team in terms of flexibility-wise if you decide to keep him (or) if maybe you have to move somebody else along. There’s no one right way to do it. But we’re going to all think about it and we’ll come up with the right decision.
“I’ve tried to say this all along. You know, one guy does not make a team here. We’ve got a lot of great players and we’re going to be ready come October to defend the Cup and we’re going to work on making sure we get it right.”
The Hawks have several options if they decide to cut ties with Niemi, including minor leaguer Corey Crawford and veteran free agents Marty Turco and Jose Theodore.
Via tweet from James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail:
Antti Niemi was awarded $2.75-million in arbitration, a number I think Chicago can live with. Hawks have to decide in next 48 hours.
The Blackhawks players, those who still remain from the Stanley Cup winners, had some comments about the breakup of the Cup champions:
“A lot of those players are the best friends you had on the team so it’s kind of tough to see them go,” winger Patrick Kane said. “You’re losing Eager … Burish … Byfuglien (and) Versteeg. Who knows what’s going to happen with Niemi? Obviously you want him back. You have to realize that this league is a business.”
The departures likely will hurt the Hawks not only on the ice but also in a close-knit dressing room.
“Those guys are so easy to hang out with and you spend so much time with them that when they’re not around for a team function like this … you’re expecting them to show up,” winger Troy Brouwer said. “We know that’s not going to be the case and you just have to go on. We’re excited about the new players joining our team.”
Among those newcomers at the sold-out convention that runs through Sunday were Viktor Stalberg, acquired from the Maple Leafs for Versteeg, and John Scott, a free-agent signee from the Wild.
“The reality is that we’re going to be making changes,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “When you look at our lineup you’re always looking at the decisions we have to make. We’ve been in a tough spot and we’re trying to do the best we can to enhance our team and the future all well.”
The convention continues through Sunday.
Bowman: Arbitrator will rule sometime Saturday. Hawks will have 48 hours to accept, walk away or trade the award.
Antti Niemi’s salary arbitration case was heard Thursday morning in Toronto and the wait is now on as a decision on the Blackhawks goaltender’s salary for the 2010-11 season will be announced within 48 hours.
Niemi and agent Bill Zito were expected to ask for more than $3 million for the one-year contract after the netminder led the Hawks to their first Stanley Cup since 1961. The team likely is hoping the arbitrator awards Niemi around $2 million. If the Hawks deem the award too high, they could walk away from the deal and let Niemi become an unrestricted free agent.
This link is from a French Canadian site, and I won’t post the silly-sounding Google translation, but the gist of it is that the Hawks have contacted Jose Theodore’s agent, Don Meehan, to gauge the interest from the former Canadiens, Avalanche and Capitals goaltender in coming to Chicago in case the arb hearing with Antti Niemi doesn’t go the Hawks’ way.
The Hawks and Stanley Cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi are scheduled to go to arbitration on Thursday, and both sides on Tuesday were able to take a glimpse of the other’s argument. Arbitration rules state that both sides will present their arguments in writing to the opposing side — as well as the arbitrator — 48 hours before the hearing.
“We exchanged briefs, and we’ll take it from there,” Niemi’s agent Bill Zito said. “I imagine we’ll keep talking.”
That last statement from Zito does give some hope that the team and the player could settle before tomorrow morning.
The Chicago Tribune reports that goaltender Antti Niemi will probably not sign before an arbitration hearing scheduled for today (July 29):
The sides exchanged briefings Tuesday and also sent them to the arbitrator who will determine how much of a raise Niemi, 26, will receive after making $800,000 last season. If the Hawks deem the figure awarded for the one-year deal too high they could let Niemi walk as an unrestricted free agent and move in a different direction at a critical position. They also could accept the ruling and later trade Niemi or another player for some relief for their serious salary-cap issues.
“This is atypical,” Niemi’s agent, Bill Zito, said Tuesday. “It’s just about the cap; it’s cap management. No one ever said, ‘Antti doesn’t deserve this or he’s not good enough’ or anything like that.”
Niemi is likely to be seeking between $3 million and $4 million while the Hawks probably are thinking closer to $2 million.
The hearing is scheduled for 8 am; we should have answers later today.
James Mirtle, hockey expert at the Globe and Mail in Canada, sums up the Hawks’ decision to let Antti Niemi go:
The only shoe left to drop is shipping out netminder Cristobal Huet, he of the $5.625-million a season deal. There are two options there: Send him to the AHL and eat the contract or work out some sort of a situation where he can play in Europe.
Either way, Huet’s coming off the cap.
(Chicago GM Stan Bowman spoke today of promising rookie Corey Crawford serving asMarty Turco’s backup, further reinforcing the fact Huet has likely played his last game in theNHL.)
As for the Turco for Niemi tradeoff: One source told me that this has been in the pipeline for at least a month, which explains why Turco was turning down other offers on the first two days in free agency. He wanted to play in Chicago, where he has a chance to win, and was willing to take a major paycut to do so. (He signed a one-year deal for $1.3-million, turning down multiyear contracts for more than double that per season.)
It’s unfortunate that salary cap issues have taken so many players off a Stanley Cup champion, especially players who became cult figures like Niemi and Dustin Byfuglien. But that’s the reality of the NHL in the salary cap era; Stan Bowman is a good GM and the Hawks’ core of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and others will have them serious Cup contenders for a long time.
It’s nearly impossible to repeat as Cup champion, though; no team has won two in a row since Detroit in 1997 and 1998 and only the Dallas Stars (1999 and 2000) and Red Wings (2008 and 2009) even appeared in the finals two years in a row.
The Blackhawks have already lost several players from the Stanley Cup championship team due to salary cap issues. After matching the Sharks' offer sheet for Niklas Hjalmarsson on Monday, they now turn their attention to re-signing goalie Antti Niemi:
Niemi has an arbitration hearing scheduled for July 29, and his salary for the 2010-11 season will be determined at that time unless his agent Bill Zito and Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman can reach a deal before then.
"There are a number of different ways to go and I guess it's up to Stan and I to try and find something that makes sense for everybody," Zito said Wednesday on "The Mully & Hanley Show" on WSCR-AM 670. "Antti would like to stay and like to be a part of this thing and I guess the onus is on us to figure out a way to do it."
Despite Niemi's impressive showing during the Hawks' drive to the Stanley Cup championship, Zito said he'd rather not leave it up to an arbitrator to make sure his client gets a nice raise from his salary of $827,000 last season.
It sounds like both parties want to get a deal done. Niemi will be 27 in August and retaining him would be a key part in the Blackhawks' defense of their title.