A roundtable discussion with myself, Fifth Feather, Hockee Night, The Third Man In and Second City Hockey will be posted later. After that, I’m done talking about this whole situation for at least a week. It’s starting to drive me insane.
While most of the Blackhawks blogsphere chimed in with positive reactions to the Marty Turco signing and Antti Niemi dumping, some of the mainstream folk seemed to have a different opinion regarding Stan Bowman’s handling of the ‘Hawks’ cap situation.
Before delving into that, Adam Jahns of the Sun-Times provides us with some statistical comparisons between Niemi and Turco. The main point that sticks out: Niemi allowed three-or-fewer goals 39 times; Turco, 38. The Blackhawks went 29-10 in those games, while Dallas went a modest 21-17. Anyone who doesn’t believe the overall talent of a team makes a goaltender better should shampoo my crotch.
√ Along those lines, I’m wondering why the Tribune allows anyone other than Chris Kuc to write about the Blackhawks. David Haugh, king of the weekly ‘Hawks fluff piece, decided about halfway through the playoffs he wanted to become a cynic. No matter what he writes about hockey, he never fails to make himself look like an idiot.
Haugh’s painful piece never gave any concrete point one way or another, though the premise was correct: Neither the Blackhawks nor Niemi won yesterday. Problem is, at no point did Haugh mention Niemi’s regular season compared to that of Turco’s or the mere fact Niemi has yet to be in net for a full season. It’s not that anyone is diminishing Niemi’s contributions in the playoffs, it’s that the Blackhawks weren’t about to pay $2.75 million for a goaltender who — despite winning a Cup — hasn’t completely proven he can be the man for a full season. Turco has, and he came in at $1.45 million cheaper to a cap-strapped team. Just as fans shouldn’t diminish Niemi’s contributions, Haugh shouldn’t be anointing Niemi a savior “after just 64 games in an Indianhead sweater.”
√ Ah, Steve Rosendouche. This guy never ceases to amaze me. All season long, Rosedouche dismantled the Blackhawks goaltending situation by saying on numerous occasions the ‘Hawks couldn’t win the Cup with the goaltenders on the roster. You know who was on the roster the whole season? Antti Niemi. Now, Rosendouche is talking like Niemi’s number should be retired. This gem really got me going:
“The combination of Detroit’s Stanley Cup success with Chris Osgood behind Nicklas Lindstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Scotty Bowman and the cap has made it easy to diminish the importance of goalies.”
Yeah? And? I mean, haven’t the Blackhawks made it clear that a goaltender who has never played in a Cup Final before, never started a playoff game before, never played a full season as the No. 1 before can still win a Cup? Rosendouche couldn’t stop talking about how Niemi’s playoff inexperience could doom the ‘Hawks. Well, he was wrong — like usual. Because Niemi won 16 playoff games for the ‘Hawks must mean no other goaltender who dons the Indian head can duplicate that, right? Jesus Christ.
√ Jesse Rodgers of ESPN Chicago questions Bowman’s decision-making process this off-season beginning with the Niklas Hjalmarsson offer-sheet surprise and culminating with Niemi’s departure. Other than contradicting himself by saying the ‘Hawks made a mistake in getting nothing in return for Niemi, then answering his own question by mentioning no other team wanted Niemi for that salary, Rodgers makes a decent point:
Bowman’s eve of free agency statement, “Offer sheets don’t concern me,” is the quote of the summer, and the subsequent offer to Hjalmarsson more than likely sealed Niemi’s fate. There is little doubt the money the Hawks had for Niemi before getting Hjalmarsson’s offer sheet was higher than after they matched it.
Yeah, Bowman misread that situation and it cost the ‘Hawks more money than he anticipated keep Hjalmarsson. Still, no matter if the ‘Hawks had the money or not, I don’t believe they wanted to invest that much in Niemi. I think that’s a point most people are overlooking. Bowman simply did not want to pay over $2 million for a goaltender who hasn’t played a full regular season, even if he did help win the Cup.
√ While the Daily Herald’s Tim Sassone agrees Hammer’s offer sheet ended up being the main demise for Niemi, he doesn’t fully disagree with the move.
Will the Hawks miss Niemi? Probably. He was terrific last season, especially in the playoffs, and has the potential to be a great goalie. Do we know for sure that he’ll turn out to be another Dominik Hasek? No, we don’t, and that’s a risk the Hawks are willing to take.
With Turco, at least the ‘Hawks know they’re getting a guy who’s played a full season, has experienced a good amount of playoff action and even made a few all-star teams. For half the money, it seems like a good investment.
I’ll get right into this.
I thank Antti Niemi for his contributions to the Blackhawks and for back-stopping Chicago’s first Stanley Cup champion since 1961. His ability to forget goals-against and move onto the next play was a welcome relief from the headcase that was Cristobal Huet. Niemi’s quiet demeanor meant zero backlash toward fans or media when they criticized him, making for a somewhat peaceful situation in net compared to the Huet circus throughout most of the season. He has obvious skills that will be missed.
Is he worth $2.75 million for one season with no guarantee for a future long-term agreement for a cap-strapped team? Especially when the Blackhawks got virtually the same quality for less than half that money in Marty Turco? No. Absolutely not. And since Stan Bowman couldn’t find a trade partner for Niemi — and if you don’t think he tried, you’re a damn idiot — it’s pretty apparent other teams throughout the league feel the same way.
I don’t mean to be a downer here. But I had someone send me a message saying that the decision to let Niemi walk away “will far and away be the decision that determines Stan Bowman’s future as a quality GM in the NHL.” I’m sorry, but that can’t be further from the truth. I don’t feel there was much of a decision to make here, personally.
The Blackhawks just won a Stanley Cup dealing with a goaltending controversy that wasn’t completely settled until March. Bowman viewed Niemi and Corey Crawford as equal talents coming out of training camp, and Bowman solidified that point by publicly stating it’s Crawford’s time to make the big club. Clearly, Bowman doesn’t view goaltending to be a make-or-break position for a contender — and the Blackhawks proved his point this past season.
Investing $2.75 million in Niemi would have strapped the ‘Hawks even further. The extra million dollars in cap space allows for plenty of roster flexibility when the injury bug hits and during the early season evaluating period for the new faces. It may not sound like a lot, but in hockey a million bucks goes a long way.
Once again, people are getting too caught up in the name game. I’m sorry I’m trying to bring this to reality so quickly for those who worship Niemi, but we didn’t just let Patrick Roy go. This wasn’t the 1990s choice of keeping Eddie Belfour over Dominick Hasek. Niemi is a fine goaltender and will have some success elsewhere. But Turco is a more-than-acceptable replacement for a guy nobody even heard of going into camp last season. Before we start flooding Bowman’s office with hate mail, take a step back and realize who Niemi really is: A came-out-of-nowhere goaltender who played well enough behind the best defense in the NHL to not win nor lose games all by himself. You’re telling me Turco can’t do that next season?
Am I in the minority in feeling this way? Yes, there are knocks on Turco. He’s not going to do backflips or stand on his head and start winning Vezina Trophies all of the sudden. And neither is Niemi. The Blackhawks need a serviceable goaltender to make a few key saves.
In Turco, they have that — for $1.45 million less.
Chris Kuc has confirmed the Blackhawks are walking away from Antti Niemi’s contract and have signed Marty Turco to a one-year deal.
More to come.
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.
It’s decision time for GM Stan Bowman.
After hearing the case between the Blackhawks and goaltender Antti Niemi, the arbitrator ruled Saturday seemingly in favor of Niemi, granting the Finn $2.75 millionfor what would be a one-year contract. Bowman and the ‘Hawks now have 48 hours to accept the figure or walk away and allow Niemi to be an unrestricted free agent.
There’s also a possibility the ‘Hawks could sign the tender and trade Niemi, which may be the best for both sides. The Blackhawks have been rumored to be exploring the possibility of signing Marty Turco or Jose Theodore, with each of them saving the ‘Hawks over $1 million of cap space compared to Niemi’s now-set cap number.
It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out, but I’m stick to what I’ve been saying all along: Start preparing for life without Niemi.
I’ve been thinking of what to write in this first sentence for quite sometime. I realized the reason it’s been so difficult is because I can barely put into words the amount of gratitude I have for all those who have made Blackhawk Up what it’s become.
Today marks the 365th day since Blackhawk Up launched on the FanSided network with me being the sole writer (save for one epic post by Forklift over at Hockee Night when I was on vacation during the Stanley Cup Final). It’s been one hell of a ride watching the site continuously grow with more and more readers each passing day. I glanced over the traffic numbers throughout the year, and the constant rise puts a huge smile on my face. The success of the site obviously spiked due to the Blackhawks’ run throughout the season, but I hope you all kept coming back because of the words I wrote.
I have so many loyal followers who have interacted with me through the comments, email, Twitter and mainly the Facebook page that it would take me forever to thank you all individually. With the amount of time I spend on making this site what I want it to be, it’s an amazing feeling knowing there are people out there who actually look forward to my next post. There aren’t many successful sites out there today with one writer, so the fact I’ve been able to provide constant posts for all of you who — for some reason — actually wait to read what I have to write is a great accomplishment. And it’s all because of you readers who stop by to take a gander.
I’ve been very right about a lot of things I’ve written here, and I’ve also been very, very wrong. I’ve been the calming influence, though I’ve also added plenty of fuel to the fire. I’ve taken on columnists from Detroit and even made a national television appearance when I got double-teamed like a fledgling pornstar.
No matter what I wrote, you were there to either agree or disagree for the past year — and I’ve welcomed, and will continue to welcome, both sides. You know why the Blackhawks and the Stanley Cup mean so much to me, and I’m glad I can explain my side of the story to those who share in my obsession.
With no disrespect to anyone else, I’d like to thank some people individually:
– Adam and Zach Best, the co-founders of FanSided, who launched the site, let me run with it and proceeded to let me have a voice throughout the network. Thanks for all your support and attention.
– My grandmother, who cringes at every single curse she reads, yet is still the most loyal reader of anyone. The woman actually sat and cried when she saw me on TV. She supports everything I do unconditionally, and Blackhawk Up is no different.
– The Blackhawks blogsphere, namely Fork and CT of Hockee Night and Sam, McClure and Killion of Second City Hockey. I’m sure all of them received my initial email and said, “Great, another shitty ‘Hawks site has popped up.” I think they all quickly learned I knew what I was doing, and we’ve all shared many adult beverages discussing the ‘Hawks. I’ve been on multiple PUCKCASTS with the Hockee Night fellas, and Sam has let me contribute to The Committed Indian on a few occasions. If I hadn’t started this site, I may have never met any of you. Thanks for the past year, and I look forward to many more.
– Jeff Erikson and Neil Brown, my partners in crime in Section 326, Row 12, Seats 9-11. Jeff has been my best friend since sophomore year in high school, and when he presented me with the opportunity to share a season ticket at the beginning of the 2008-09 season I jumped at the chance. Of course, he would have never came to me with this if it hadn’t been for Neil, who told Jeff he was purchasing tickets and asked if he wanted in on it. We’ve laughed, cheered and even shed a few tears after the ‘Hawks won the Cup. Gentlemen, now we finally have something to be happy about every June 9th. Thank you both for your support.
Now that I’ve gotten a bit sappy, I’d like to send out one more thank you to all of you readers and the 20,000 or so followers through the Droid and iPhone apps. None of the words I write would mean a damn thing if you didn’t stop by and read them.
Here’s to many, many more years at Blackhawk Up — and hopefully another Stanley Cup or two or ten.
I never understood the two-faced hilarity that is salary arbitration. The Blackhawks will tell a judge all the reasons they feel Antti Niemi shouldn’t be compensated as he sees fit. Conversely, Niemi and his agent will explain why Niemi’s performance to date warrants a top-tier goaltender salary.
The ‘Hawks will attempt to prove why Niemi’s not worth the money, and Niemi’s agent will fight it. Yet the entire time, the Blackhawks want Niemi back wearing the Indian head — and from what we’re told, Niemi wants the same, but only for the right price.
It’s a back-and-forth process each side has dealt with since the Stanley Cup arrived back in Chicago. And today, we’ll finally get a ruling on what Niemi deserves — and doesn’t deserve. Either way, there will be countless overreactions to the judgment. People will cheer if the ‘Hawks win, and people will break shit if Niemi does. Neither reaction makes much sense.
As a sidenote, this is the reason I’ve stayed out of all this off-season salary cap shit. I haven’t posted here much because all I’d be doing is bitching about people whining over the Byfuglien and Versteeg trades and calling them their favorite players. Rather than crunch numbers or freak out about who will be the Blackhawks’ fourth-line center who can fit under the cap, I’ve been enjoying my Stanley Cup. I feel there should be a three-year grace period when you can’t bitch and complain about any move a franchise makes not involving a star player after winning a championship. I’m sick of hearing about all this crap. The Blackhawks just won the goddamn Stanley Cup. Enjoy it, shut up, and let the chips fall where they may.
If anyone believes the ‘Hawks go into today’s hearing with an offer of anything more than $2 million, they need to put the bong down. If anyone believes Niemi will present a demand of anything less than $3 million, they need to relinquish the crack pipe. Someone is leaving the hearing pissed off.
My guess? Start preparing for life without Niemi, ‘Hawks fans. I don’t see how this can work out. I would love to see Niemi back in net next season. It’s the best for both sides. But will I kill myself if Niemi is protecting another team’s goal on opening night? Hell no. There are viable options out there, mainly the constant rumor of Marty Turco, who would come cheaper than Niemi.
No matter what happens, the Blackhawks will have a goalie good enough to play well behind one of the best defensive units in the NHL. Freak out about this hearing if you must, but it isn’t make or break for the ‘Hawks. It’s natural to get caught up in the names when your team wins a title. Problem is, I’m hearing too much of people worrying about the names of the since departed rather than what they actually brought to the table — which, sadly to say, is replaceable.
And the same goes for Antti Niemi.
Just for the record, the 17 years indeed does NOT relate to the amount of time he spent making this decision. It’s the number of years apparently agreed upon by the New Jersey Devils and Ilya Kovalchuk. Holy. Piss.
Remember when the league made a big, gigantic stink over contracts during last season’s free agency period? Marian Hossa’s now-modest 12-year, $62.8 million deal makes the NHL look stupid for even looking into it. Kovalchuk’s deal is reportedly worth upwards of around $150 million.
At the conclusion of the reported contract, Kovalchuk will be 44 years old and heading into Chris Chelios territory while being tortured by the media and fans to just give it the hell up already. I’m wondering how much a team is going to enjoy a $7-9 million cap hit for a 44-year-old. Then again, Hossa won’t exactly be young by the time his Blackhawks contract is complete, so … whatever.
Either way, the ridiculous back-and-forth saga with the Los Angeles Kings is now over with after the Devils finally met the demands of a guy who is one hell of a player, but doesn’t deserve this contract. I’m sorry. I think he’s a great player and even hoped the ‘Hawks at one point would make a deal for him. But $150 million for nearly two decades? These are the kinds of contracts we expect to come out of MLB and NBA guys, not NHL guys. Sorry, but I don’t buy it.
The fact I’m writing about this, which is the first update in a week, shows how slow it’s been around Chicago pertaining to the ‘Hawks. Yeah, they signed Jack Skille. That’s great. Only 80 more guys to go with $7.92 in cap space. Rather than constantly write about shit you know and beat the hell out of a horse that’s been dead and buried for nearly a year now, I’ll wait until something of substance happens. Or I’ll just curse a lot to take the place of it.
Capologists and ‘Hawks fans alike busted out the calculators in wake of Niklas Hjalmarsson’s spankin’ new 4-year, $14 million contract thanks to those sore-loser San Jose Sharks. While the past few days may not have rivaled “The Decision,” a la LeBron James, the ‘Hawks considered a looming variable: Keep Hammer, and risk losing Chicago’s first Stanley Cup-winning goaltender in 49 years.
It’s widely speculated Jarslov Halak’s contract with the St. Louis Blues — coming in at a $3.75 million cap hit — will be a benchmark for Antti Niemi’s award following his July 29 arbitration hearing. It’s obvious this may be the case, given that Neimi’s statistics are comparable to Halak’s numbers in relation to each player’s time served in the NHL and Niemi’s shiny new ring.
If the arbitrator rules Niemi deserves a similar salary, the Blackhawks have 48 hours to decide whether or not to accept the decision and pay him, or whether to lose exclusive negotiations and the right to simply match other offers and let him walk as an unrestricted free agent. In a strange twist of fate, working with the mentality Cristobal Huet’s cap hit is buried in the minors, the latter may end up benefiting the Blackhawks — and here’s why.
Despite playoff success — which, of course, Niemi possess more of than Halak — the two goaltenders are vastly different in the eyes of NHL personnel and the fans they’re responsible for putting in the seats. Halak has star power in the public eye — he’s outspoken, animated at times on the ice and he greatly contributed to knocking out of the playoffs the two biggest stars in the game, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin.
It shouldn’t be a secret Halak’s image soared on a team of relatively unknowns and past-their-prime players as it slayed hockey giants. Halak was in demand as much for his star power as he was for his performance in 18 playoff games.
Niemi doesn’t have star power. He’s quiet, seemingly aloof and won’t be the main attraction for any paying fan. For as well as he played at times in the playoffs and in the regular season, he was regarded as the weak link on an otherwise stellar Blackhawks team. Though Halak’s playoff success carried him to his current popularity, Niemi’s resulted in a simple ho-hum. The view is the ‘Hawks won more in spite of Niemi rather than because of him.
Niemi just may be a better goaltender than Halak, and the arbitrator may feel he deserves Halak-like money, but no one is going to be kicking his door down to give it to him — including the Blackhawks. I’m not convinced even if if the Blackhawks had cap space to work with they’d shell out that type of money for him. If the Blackhawks don’t believe Niemi to be worth that type of money just yet, what’s to say other teams will be so willing to devote nearly $4 million per year to a goaltender with 27 regular season wins? Proven, yet aging, goaltenders like Marty Turco are on the market at a discounted rate. The Blackhawks know that, too.
The Blackhawks view Niemi as a valuable asset, but not valuable enough to lose a second-tier defenseman to an in-conference power for what may turn out to be the same money. The ‘Hawks felt Hjalmarsson would be a bigger loss than Niemi, and they proved that by matching the Sharks’ offer sheet.
If the ‘Hawks allow Niemi to test unrestricted free agency, it may end up working in their favor. Which team goes after him at that price? Edmonton? Possibly Columbus considering Steve Mason’s disaster-filled sophomore season? That would just put Niemi in another goaltender controversy. Ottawa? The options are thin. Even if any of these teams came after Niemi, will he take a larger paycheck and more pressure to carry a team which will rely on him for its success? Personally, I don’t even think a team is ready to make that commitment to him, no matter if he believes he’s ready for it or not.
Niemi’s best bet would be to return to a cushy situation in Chicago at a discounted rate, sit between the pipes behind stellar defensive units and be neither the savior nor the sore thumb. The ‘Hawks want Niemi back, but only if he fits into their cap plans — not only for this season, but for the future.
Bottom line, I’m not sure if we need to start worrying just yet whether or not the Blackhawks are going to end up losing Brian Campbell and/or Patrick Sharp in order to clear space for Niemi’s pending arbitration ruling, as well as the rest of the restricted free agents needing deals just so the ‘Hawks can field a team next season.
If it comes down to it, the Blackhawks have made clear they’ll find a cheaper, suitable replacement for Niemi on the open market. My guess? Niemi ends up back with the Blackhawks for much less than we anticipated — be it a contract agreement before the arbitration hearing, or once Niemi sees there’s no NHL team out there willing to shell out the cash for him.
With the way this off-season has gone, nothing is outside the realm of possibility.
The Blackhawks made it official they will match the San Jose Sharks’ offer sheet for Niklas Hjalmarsson and sign him to a 4-year, $14 million contract. The cap it will be $3.5 million over the next four years.
Antti Niemi’s arbitration date is set for July 29, and we’ll have to see if the ‘Hawks let him walk after the St. Louis Blues gave Jaroslav Halak a monster deal and set the bar pretty high for a goalie of Niemi’s comparable experience.
I’ll have more later on this decision and what it means for the ‘Hawks chances of keeping Niemi, or if they’ll be looking elsewhere for some goaltending.