With a decision on  Antti Niemi’s $2.75 million arbitrator-awarded salary looming early Monday,  Stan Bowman addressed the issue — and it doesn’t sound too promising for Niemi fans.

Bowman didn’t officially tip his hand one way or the other, but the consistency in his comments remained by stating the Blackhawks have numerous options with or without Niemi.

Per Chris Kuc of the Tribune:

“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.”

Bowman feels he’s going to get it right either way, despite the fact the Blackhawks really haven’t had a legit, consistent, No. 1 goaltender since Eddie Belfour. Letting go of Niemi and signing either  Marty Turco or  Jose Theodore would put the Blackhawks back in this same situation next season of searching for a goaltender. Or would it?

It appears Bowman is ready to give  Corey Crawford his shot on the big club.

“(Crawford’s) spent a number of years developing in our system and I think the time is now for him to get an opportunity to show us what he can do,” Bowman said. “He’s certainly had a chance to learn his craft in the minor leagues. He’s carried the load down there year after year. I think it’s time for him. That’s one of the things we’re looking forward to, is you have to give players an opportunity.”

Go back to the beginning of this past season when Niemi and Crawford were battling for the back-up spot behind  Cristobal Huet. At the time, the organization viewed Niemi and Crawford to be on equal footing talent-wise. Could it be, despite Niemi’s success of helping the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup, that Bowman still feels the same as he did roughly nine months ago?

The plan now that Niemi received a figure which may be too high for the ‘Hawks to take on without trading anyone else away — which Bowman may not want to do — could very well be to find a short-term solution in Turco or Theodore to help groom Crawford for the big job in 2011-12.

No matter what, we’ll get a better idea tomorrow morning.

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