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.