Antti Niemi had a very good season for the Chicago Blackhawks last season. He stepped up as a rookie and took the starting goaltender's job for a team that's only question was their netminding.
He made the saves he had to make, and a few more from time to time. When it came down to crunch time in the Stanley Cup playoffs, he outplayed Pekka Rinne, Roberto Luongo, Evgeni Nabokov, and Michael Leighton, and help the Hawks capture their first Stanley Cup in 49 years.
Thank you Antti. Well done.
With all of that said, a lot is being made of Niemi's offseason negotiations. He's a restricted free agent, and has decided to take the Blackhawks to arbitration, meaning an arbiter will judge exactly what contract he has earned.
Initially, many thought this would work in favor of the Blackhawks, but after an arbiter rewarded Jaroslav Halak with a 4 year, $15 million contract, many Hawks supporters got nervous.
They knew the Hawks couldn't afford to give Niemi that salary without moving out yet another valuable piece.
Now it looks even more dire, as the Hawks were forced to match the San Jose Sharks free agent tender of a 4 year, $14 million contract to Niklas Hjalmarsson. His $3.5 million annual cap hit was a little more than the Hawks expected to pay, and it REALLY throws a wrench into the Niemi plans.
With that in mind, it's important for the Blackhawks to look at this objectively. Niemi stole our hearts, just like "Big Buff" and "Steeger," but it's time for the Hawks to continue being emotionless in this offseason.
Antti Niemi is worth about $2.5-$3.0 million. The Hawks can afford to pay him approximately $2.5 million. If he won't accept that, they have to let him walk. It sucks, but it's business.
Resigning Niemi for more than that will cost you Patrick Sharp. He's simply not worth it. There are veteran goalies on the market who can make routine saves. Marty Turco and Jose Theodore are on the market without contracts, and both can do the job Niemi did. If the Hawks can convince one of them to sign a deal for one last chance at a Cup, then it could work.
Losing Sharp, in my opinion, shouldn't be an option. Aside from his excellent overall game, and his dreamy eyes (what?), he's emerged as one of the vocal leaders in a locker room that has lost important personal parts this offseason. Losing Sharp would be too much.
Bottom line...Sharp is more valuable than Niemi.
Stories have surfaced that the Blackhawks are looking to move Brian Campbell. While that would be the ideal scenario (you could keep both Sharp and Niemi that way), it's also the most unlikely. Campbell has 6 years left on a contract with a $7.14 million cap hit. THAT is crippling. No team in their right mind would take on that contract.
The only hope is a team like the New York Islanders, who need to get to the salary cap floor, might be willing to take on his contract, but what sense does that make for them? They can add 2-3 quality pieces for that money. It just doesn't make sense.
It should be an interesting rest of this month. A lot of questions still need to be answers, and a lot of slots need to be filled in. One of those slots should belong to Patrick Sharp.
Filed under: Antii Niemi, Antti Niemi, Blackhawks, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Sports, Cristobal Huet, danny mac show, goaltending, jay zawaski, NHL, nhl playoffs, sports, stan bowman, Stanley Cup Champions, stanley cup finals, wscr
Tags: antii niemi, antti niemi, blackhawks, chicago blackhawks, chicago sports, cristobal huet, danny mac show, goaltending, jay zawaski, NHL, nhl playoffs, Sports, stan bowman, stanley cup champions, stanley cup finals, wscr