In a summer of losses, the Chicago Blackhawks skated away with a minor victory during convention weekend after an arbitrator reportedly awarded goaltender Antti Niemi a one-year salary of $2.75 million. The Hawks championship netminder was seeking in excess of $3 million after an NHL rookie campaign that ended with the Finn hoisting the Stanley Cup overhead. Had Niemi and his agent been more successful in turning a short resume into gold, it would have been his ticket out of town. But with his salary set below the $3 million mark, it is widely believed general manager Stan Bowman will elect to bring Niemi back for one more campaign.
As of late Saturday afternoon, Bowman had yet to comment on the arbitrator's decision as the club prepares for a nightime celebration at the Chicago Hilton & Towers.
I'd imagine the GM is slightly relieved that the dollar value is one that is workable within the Blackhawks cap restraints, but don't expect a gleeful reaction. At $2.75 million, it's still not a sure thing that Niemi will return. Bowman has 48 hours to decide if the Finn will be back, or the young GM can trade the goalie or outright release him. Because of the favorable dollar value, I highly doubt Bowman will allow Niemi to hit the open market. And the trade market would most likely return a mid-level draft pick.