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Antti Niemi Likely To Go To Arbitration Hearing

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.