Blackhawks Confidential

Yes, Blackhawks finally say no to Niemi and bring in Turco

Apparently, the Blackhawks agreed with Antti Niemi's critics. They didn't believe he was all that good, either, preferring to sign free agent goaltender Marty Turco and turn him loose as a free agent.

Niemi wasn't good enough in their eyes to pay a realistic premium for him and believe he was the wave of the future.

They won't say that, of course, which should come as a comfort. They don't say a lot, and when they do GM Stan Bowman says things like don't worry about it, we're fine, Niemi is going nowhere because we got it all figured out with the salary cap.

I can understand why Bowman is frequently unavailable for comment when he should be held to account and made to address important situations that develop.

Hawks management evidently is trying to limit the damage he poses each and every time Stammerin' Stan goes into spin control without an honest thought to express from his prepared list of cover stories.

Of course that was over a month ago that Niemi was certain to be in the picture and Hawks fans were told not to sweat, when the Hawks were whistling a different tune. Now it's put out the lights the party's over for Niemi, who never knew how little he mattered.

And we'll be fine with the retread being retread.

Niemi may have thought he won the Stanley Cup. He was wrong. The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. He was a replaceable cog in the wheel.

Well, we shall see about that.

The Hawks couldn't have asked for a better arbitration decision than came down from Toronto. Paying Niemi $2.75 million was better than the feared $3.5 to $4 million that were speculated as possible salaries for Niemi for 2010-11.

As the inestimable Forklift said over the weekend on his blog, HockeeNight, it's a slam dunk to sign Niemi back at that figure. Another slam dunk that rocketed off the rim.

So let's make no mistake about this. If the Hawks wanted to make it work, they could have made it work. It would have hurt, and some juggling would have been required filling out the roster, but Niemi was cost effective based on what he accomplished and what he meant to the championship run.

Instead, the braintrust led by Scotty Bowman (c'mon, you don't really buy that Stan's driving the bus, do you?) chose to go older and cheaper and with added experience rather than lay the groundwork for Niemi as THE GUY for years.

Scotty knows a goalie is just one element of a good team and sometimes not the most important element. That's why Stan was stresssing TEAM, TEAM, TEAM as the overriding concept all weekend at the Hawks convention, basically telling fans that Niemi was not worth what he brought to the whole equation.

The early word was that Turco settled for $1 to $1.5 million to be a Hawk. He obviously wanted Chicago from the outset if the reports of him turning down $2 million to be a Philadelphia Flyer are accurate.

Turco was 22-20-11 for Dallas last season with a 2.72 GAA and a .911 save percentage. On Aug. 13, he will turn 35. His NHL playoff record is 21-26 with a 2.17 GAA and a .914 save percentage.

Niemi turns 27 Aug. 29. He was 26-7-4 this year for the Hawks and took over the starting role late in the season after Cristobal Huet bombed. His GAA was 2.25, while his save percentage was .912.

Here's what you will learn from Turco's Wikipedia page: "Because of his puckhandling prowess, Canadian hockey personality Don Cherry named Turco as "the smartest goalie in the NHL."

OK, Niemi had some adventures handling the puck. No question about that. Perhaps Turco will be an upgrade there.

Here's another important Wiki factoid: "On February 9, 2009, (Turco won) his first regular-season game at Joe Louis Arena in 11 tries against the Detroit Red Wings."

There's a heartening thought. A goalie that struggles to beat Detroit.

We can only hope the perception that Niemi is a passing fancy and Turco will be a capable substitute for him in Chicago's net is a valid team strategy.

Obviously, Corey Crawford will be there to pick up the pieces if Turco collapses the same way Huet did last season. That's a comforting thought to all Crawford supporters, but a bit of a concern to all Crawford skeptics.

Truthfully, the Hawks are playing a game of Scrabble, because of the cap. No one knows if they are spelling out CHAMPION or CHUMP.

Let me leave you with the unforgettable words of Stan Bowman from June 25 in The Tribune's breaking news section.

"We're fine," Bowman said. "We made our move to unload some salary there and the salary cap was higher than we anticipated; we didn't think it would be at $59.4 (million). Those combinations made it a much better scene."

Maybe the Blackhawks are fine. But it's going to be a whole different journey to return to the top.

This team won't be defending a championship. They'll be trying to find their own way.

Look for updates in the breaking news section when the Hawks fearlessly permit Bowman to speak out on the state of the union. I wish somebody would think about hooking him up to a lie detector the next time.

He makes Bob Pulford look like an open book.

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61 Comments

Jerry Kayne said:

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Ahh, remember the good old days when our big goalie concern was the color of Huet's pads.

iplagitr said:

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Jerry, every time I see your latest user picture, I think it's Q-stashe sitting by the pool in a white-chaired spa with a towel around his neck.

Jerry Kayne said:

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That's Q in the stands watching the prospects skate a couple Mondays ago.

iplagitr said:

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Oh I know - just looks like Captain Stubing

beaverwarrior said:

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Before a third of the team was set packing, I had Antti penciled in at 2.8 Million and the Hammer at 1.8 Million. In my book the Hawks overpaid to keep the D-man and let the properly paid goalie go with nothing in return. With all the comments flowing around from the used car salesman and Antti's agent, I thought we're going to see a sign and trade today.... guess not.

Mike Kiley said:

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Just shows how little they valued Niemi in the big picture. I can't see blaming Niemi for not signing pre-arbitration for a hometown discount. He followed the rules that were bargained for by the players association and received a valid salary figure.

beaverwarrior said:

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Didn't Janice Joplin once sing about "getting it while you can"? No ill will here concerning Niemi.

Mike Kiley said:

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The blame reference wasn't meant for you. I've just seen it out there. Makes no sense to me. None of us would be giving a hometown discount if it was our jobs.

iplagitr said:

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Mike's probably referring, in part, to my comment in the last blog... but hey I don't blame the guy either. It just bugs me. I guess my point was that getting 2 million (or whatever) a year is not by any stretch being "underpaid." It's just that some other players (Campbell, Huet, etc) are so ridiculously OVERpaid that it make $2,000,000 a year look "bad."

We all know I was one of the biggest Niemi supporters last year, but let's face the facts, he's only played like 40 reg season games in his whole NHL career. Yes, he helped win the championship, but he also had a phenomenal team in front of him. There are very few players at any skill level coming out of a partially played rookie season that make as much as he's asking for.

Mike Kiley said:

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Guitar--It was primarily a blog I saw on Bleacher report where the headline was whether Niemi was being egotistical by not settling for whatever the Hawks could pay. I don't see that as ego. I see that as business. The Hawks made a business decision in deciding he wasn't worth the money squeeze. All this loyalty nonsense and love of the fans is just another trumped-up card that franchises and players use when it suits their purposes. I always laugh that fans can't see through the charade. Roses are red, violets are blue, we'll go to another goalie when we tell you.

beaverwarrior said:

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Mike,

I had no idea that you are a poet and you're dead on about it all being a business.

Paul said:

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Couldn't agree more Mike. The only real loyalty shown in professional sports is the fans to their respective franchise. The franchise doesn't care about what the fans want (despite the fact they make all of their money off of us) and the players don't care either. Look at Kovalchuk, when he was a Thrasher it was all about winning so he could skip out of town. Then came free agency and it was all about "financial security". It's a joke. And the worst part is that the majority of us buy into it, myself included.

With that off my chest, does anyone else wish the Hawks would have gone the Islander route and snatched up James Wisniewski for a draft pick???

iplagitr said:

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Yeah, I now you guys are right. I guess it's just a pipe dream that has me longing for a flicker of decency in today's game.

I thought David Haugh posted an excellent article today that pretty much summed up what I was trying to say, if anyone's interested:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/hockey/blackhawks/ct-spt-0803-haugh-blackhawks-chicago-20100802,0,7817942.column

Dave Morris said:

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Jerry Kayne is always right.

Plus, Marty Turco makes a wicked eggplant parmigiana.

Plus, Mike, the Hawks have some shekels left to sign a replacement for Brent Sopel.

That alone should make you happy.

Mike Kiley said:

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Sopel grew on me. Like eggplant.

OneTeam said:

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On behalf of Red Wing fans everywhere, we would like to welcome Marty Turco to the Chicago Blackhawks! It will be nice to face "Maaaaaarrrrrrtttttyyyyyyyy" 6 times a year rather than just the 4 times we saw him in Dallas!

Mike Kiley said:

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I knew you wouldn't be far behind. Vultures can smell death.

OneTeam said:

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Haha! Couldnt help myself! I just got all giddy inside when I read the news today. Im hoping that the Wings go forward with signing Mike Madano while we're at it. At least this way, the rest of the team doesnt have to tell Mike how to beat Turco, since he should already know. Can't wait to play!

HawksRule said:

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this coming from the hockey expert who warned us that our goalie situation last year wouldn't carry us through the playoffs in 2010, and told us repeatedly that Hawk fans all needed to be patient before expecting to win a cup.

Mike Kiley said:

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We are like ONE in repelling ONE TEAM, even if he/she enjoys the repelling. Ah, well. Let's hope Turco figures out how to stop the Wings. Or the division swings back to Michigan.

OneTeam said:

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You are absolutely right! Fortunately I didnt bet on it or I would have lost my house on the deal! No doubt what Neimi did was incredible. He put himself in rare company (Roy and Dryden to name a couple) with winning a Cup as rookie. I also think it was all that forechecking by Hossa that did it! He has been known as one of the greatest forecheckers of all times! Who'd-a-thunk-it! Here I thought he was a goal scorer. I was SO wrong on nearly everything about last years playoffs. Its good to see that things will be getting back to normal next year.

borg said:

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Considering your track record at prognosticating, I'd feel worse if you forecasted success.

VegasHawksFan said:

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Whatayagonnado? We paid up and won a cup and now have to deal with the fallout. In a context free world, we can focus squarely on the money paid to Huet, Campbell, Hossa and the bonus's to Kane and Toews and say WTF?! And then there's Stan, he proooooooomissed us we were done. Oh the outrage of it all! That lying, incompetent BASTARD! Instead of being the team that reached and fell short, we are the team that reached and won. Unless detroit finds a few more Hank Z's deep in the draft, they are not going to be any more dominant than any other team. I think what we saw the Hawks do is going to be a story that repeats itself quite a bit in the cap world. Shit teams are going to need some luck and good draft picks and then pay up for a few good veterans to get them over the hump followed by a year of letdown and destruction. Comparatively, the Hawks still have some very solid players to be content with. Turco has a lot of incentive to play his ass off this year to try and get better money next year.

borg said:

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Huet's contract is irrelevant since it'll be gone by the start of the season.

The key for the Hawks ill be the development of players like Beach, Morin, Hayes, Kruger, Pirri, Lalonde, Leddy and Olsen. The problem with that is Kane and Toews are only signed for 5 more years, so they better expedite their development.

OneTeam said:

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"Unless detroit finds a few more Hank Z's deep in the draft, they are not going to be any more dominant than any other team."

Yeah, a few more Hank's... or Pavel Datsyuk's (6th RD 171st pick) or Johan Franzen's (3rd RD 97th pick) or Tomas Holmstrom's (10th RD 257 pick) or Nicklas Lidstrom's (3rd RD 53rd pick) or Valddy Konstantinov's (11th RD 221st pick) Just to note a few. The drafting success the Wings have had over the last 20 years is seriously impressive. (I know you guys enjoy Kopecky!)

Just saying-- The Wings have consistantly scouted out the gems in the draft. Real deep or not. Hell, they only had ONE first round pick in a decade! No reason to think that will change any time soon or that the next "Hank Z" isnt already in our system. Riley Sheahan? I guess we'll find out soon enough!

borg said:

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Yeah, those Wings have completely assembled their rosters over the years with homegrown finds.

No big-name, high-priced guys like Hull, or Shanahan, or Coffey, or Ciccarelli, or Hasek, or Joseph, or Murphy, or Robitaille, or Verbeek, or Chelios, or Duchesne or Schneider.

Nope, just good ole, salt of the earth scouting.

borg said:

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Forgot about Hossa.

Nope, not him either.

OneTeam said:

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No doubt about it, the Wings have had amazing success in landing players that way as well! Thanks for pointing that out!

But I think the point being made by nklhd12 was specific to the Wings finding more Hank Z types deep in the draft in order to be more dominate than other teams. If they could not, they would be only as competitive as any other team. Therefore, I merely pointed out the long successful history the Wings have in that area (drafting) and why it wouldnt be too pressumptuos to believe they will continue to do so going forward.

Ps- Im thinking of buying a Red Wings jersey but with the name Turco on the back! (you know, I figured that since the Wings own him, why not honor our favorite opposing goaltender with a jersey!)

borg said:

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Amazing success might be stretching it. They basically won 2 Cups with all the Hall-of-Famers and all-stars that fell in their lap, players they would've never been able to acquire with a cap.

I have a suggestion for the rest of the league. Get your shot in at the Blackhawks now before their top ten prospects develop. Because there's more talent in the organization now than two months ago.

VegasHawksFan said:

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Strangely, not many people enjoy Kopecky, but I'm glad he's staying. You and borg fleshed out the point better then I did, it takes good scouting AND good free agent signings to win cups. Detroit has had enormous success, but they are no longer the only team that will be seen as a destination and they are no longer the only team that has a serious shot at being competitive enough to win the cup. They are going to feel the pinch of the cap like everyone else.

Nothing is too presumptuous for a wings fan to assume. Being closer to the history of winning versus the history of sucking ass like everyone else at one time or another can distort your outlook.

OneTeam said:

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Whats not to like in Kopecky?

As for distorted outlook--I suppose to some degree. However, I have been a fan of the Wings all of my life. WELL before the Wings went on the longest current streak of post-season appearances in all of North American professional sports. (was that necessary? Haha) I still recall the pangs of listening to Dave Strader and Mickey Redmond wrap up the final game of one dissapointing playoffless season after another. Thats why to this day, I have not taken one bit of it for granted!

I suppose there is a little cockiness or presumptuousness in areas of my outlook on the Wings. Guilty as charged. I suppose my passion for the game and my teams success has had its affects.

Interestingly Ive noticed a bit of that in Chicago as of late. One Cup and Chicago has "been passed the torch" "is the future of hockey" "a Dynasty in the making". Man, I wonder how bad it would get around here if the success continued for another decade and a half much less a couple more years?

VegasHawksFan said:

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You don't have to wonder, watch the SNL spoofs of Bears fans.

borg said:

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Putting aside the hockey side of the move, I'm concerned with how Turco will be accepted by the fans. They were downright nasty to Huet for his struggles, and now Turco has to replace a newly-minted fan-favorite who just won a Cup. The last thing Turco needs is 20,000 people on his back. He'll have enough pressure on him the way it is.

Jerry Kayne said:

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One big patented Turco windmill save and the newbies will be won over. I doubt if Turco is that brittle at this point.

Are we predicting his number? 35 is retired. He's listed on the Hawks website roster but no number.

AgeingCrocodile said:

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Haha I'm going with number 30 for Turco

OneTeam said:

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I think the number 1 is apporpriate- It represents the number of times he has beaten the Wings in regulation during his nine regular seasons in the NHL!

beaverwarrior said:

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#1 is a retired sweater. Try again.

OneTeam said:

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I think as a Red Wing fan I would know his number....since we've had it for NINE YEARS! Hey-o! LOL! (Well, I thought it was funny)

iplagitr said:

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It may be tough to win over the bandwagoneers, but anyone who's followed the team for any length of time knows what Turco is capable of, and remembers how he tormented the Hawks in the past playing against them. I'm not happy to see Niemi go, but the Hawks picked up proven solid goalie for half-price. Turco must be totally stoked too. He'll be up for the challenge.

Hostile Hawk said:

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I am speechless. In my eyes, Niemi earned a couple mil when taken in perspective of some other salaries on the team. We have gotten rid of a lot of guys who brought the cup home to Chicago. Like him or not, the Hawks probably don't win it without Big Buf, who also, like it or not, was more important than Campbell, who is effectively the thorn in this teams side. Goodbye Niemi, sorry you bailed us out and we threw you to the curb.

On a brighter note, I think Turco will perform well this year and teach Crawford a lot. It might have been the most logical choice, but not the best choice.

borg said:

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I don't like it either, but had Niemi returned, he likely would've been gone as an UFA next year anyway.

And I can't say I'm sold on Crawford.

SouthSideHawkMan said:

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Who let the Detroit fan in? Oh brother. Anyways lets hope this signing will allow Beach, Lolonde and Hendry all to be regulars on the roster

icehogst said:

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I'm wth puckpowwow. I hope the only reason Niemi was cut loose was the impossibility of fitting his reasoable, one season salary under the Cap. For any other reason it is a mistake.

He is one of what, 3 rookies(Dryden and Roy are pretty good company) that won the Cup and the explanation that the Hawks won is because the team in front of him was phenomonal? What a bunch of baloney. It is too damn hard to win the Cup to dismiss his play that casually.

Hard to believe the same Marty Turco who was pined for during last year's goalie soap opera is now the man and the guy who overcame the drama is looking for a job. Weird.

HawksRule said:

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We could also look at it this way: if Niemi goes lukewarm for another team next season and Turco reignites his youthful terror in net with the Hawks, then Bowman looks like a genius.

VegasHawksFan said:

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No matter what Stan does, he is not going to be seen as a genius unless and until the Hawks win another cup.

Paul said:

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If Turco can convince Bowman to bring in Modano then the move was well worth it in my mind.

borg said:

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Modano just agreed with Detroit for 1.25M.

A similar deal would've left the Hawks with just 433K to play with.

OneTeam said:

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Third line: Hudler, Madano and Cleary! Feelin good about some of that free agent signing stuff we were talking about earlier! I wonder how well Madano knows Turco's weaknesses? I guess after 9 years, it works both ways.

I CANT WAIT FOR THIS SEASON TO START!!!!

VegasHawksFan said:

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You might wanna check how to spell his name before getting a jersey.

OneTeam said:

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lol- Musta left my hockey name spell checker off-- All apologies to our newest Red Wing and Detroit native: MIKE MODANO.

He will also require a new number as #9 belongs to Mr. Hockey.

Besides, I said I was planning on getting a new Wings jersey with TURCO written on the back...not Modano.

HawksRule said:

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I think it says a lot that both teams from the 2010 Cup finals thought Turco would be the best choice to improve their squads for next year. And it says even more that Turco turned down the deal with the Flyers (even though it was more money) because he was waiting for a chance to play for the Hawks. Now there's a smart player who ranks being on a better team higher than getting a few more dollars. Turco wants a cup, so he's doing what Hossa did... coming to the Hawks.

JDL said:

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Did you ever stop to consider that being open and predictable as a general manager would be an occupational hazard? Nice of you to mention Pully though. When is his day with the Cup?

VegasHawksFan said:

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Question for the gang, if no one else out there bites on Nemo for 2.7 mil, is Stan still a butthole for walking or just Campbell because....well because he makes so much money. Since we're at it, if the Hawks offered Nemo 2 mil, is that an insult when you know the market is goalie heavy? Would it be just a bit ironic if he went to Dallas?

I don't say this with a bit of malice, but I think Niemi has a strong chance of regretting this.

Hostile Hawk said:

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Campbell will always be a butthole. Actually, I know some guys who played with him back near the college years and I'm told he is a great guy. So, I feel bad when I say he is a butthole, but only for taking advantage of his situation, not for his personality. Too much greed in this world. It keeps a guy like Niemi from getting his just desserts. I hope someone does pick him up and that he does really well. I wouldn't be surprised if it was the Sharks.
I think Stan was a butthole for not signing Hjammer earlier and not taking care of business before it took care of him. We might have been able to keep Niemi then.

It is all business right. The same kind of business that gets you into recessions and crap.

VegasHawksFan said:

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Just tweakin you about it, all in good fun. Actually, it does seem like he is a pretty decent dude and if nothing else, he does contribute on the ice, it honestly could be much worse. As for Niemi, I think a goalie heavy market is as much to blame as anything else; course his desire to get 4mil didn't help matters either if we're talking about greed. I think Wilson's move to try and get hammer instead of Niemi was even more telling about what the league is think about goalies now and that is not going to be good for Niemi's future.

Hawkeyeverynite said:

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Last September most Chicago fans and sports analysts cited the Blackhawks as having a great chance to win the 2010 Cup. But at that time very few fans even knew who Niemi was and would have been happy to see Turco come to town to further help their chances. Now these same fans act as if losing Niemi is the worst thing that's happened to the team since the Roenick trade in '96.

Look at the core of this team and the potential of the talented young players. Now add a veteran like Turco and bring up a talented Crawford. This will be a great season for Hawk fans just like the last one.

blkhawk11 said:

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Good points by all Hawk fans here and although hefty contracts have crippled the blackhawks somewhat, we must still have faith that next season's outcome will prove successful in all respects. Most of the main core of this team is still alive and well and with the addition of Turco will be a blessing in disguise. Looking forward to the future with great anticipation and love of the hawks!

icehogst said:

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Amen Hawkeyeverynite and blkhawk11. It has been a stressful off season with our legendary Cup team scattered and re-structured. The past is over and it is time to think of how incredibly exciting and satisfying last season was and realize it could be again this year.

GO HAWKS !!

beaverwarrior said:

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CapGeek is reporting that Jordan Henry resigned with the Hawks @ $600,000. John Madden signed with the Wild @ $1.25 million....

HawksRule said:

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Anyone heard anything at all about Niemi in the past week? It sure doesn't seem like teams are jumping at the chance to sign him now.

Wouldn't it be great if the Devils gave up on Kovalchuk and no one wanted to sign him for the obscene amount of money he's demanding?

borg said:

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Don't know about Niemi, but now there are screwballs tossing out suggestions that the NHL could take the Cup away from the Blackhawks over the Hossa deal, which they supposedly are re-investigating.

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