Report: Antti Niemi Gets $2.75 Million in Arbitration
ESPN Chicago, as well as Jeff Marek, is reporting that Niemi was awarded $2.75 million in arbitration on Saturday, which will give the cap-strapped Blackhawks 48 hours to make a decision on what to do with him.
They can accept the ruling (and either keep him or attempt to trade him) or simply walk away from it and allow Niemi to become a free agent.
Bowman admitted on a conference call late last week that he was planning for a number of different scenario's once the number was finally awarded. The soon-to-be 27-year-old Niemi is coming off a season that saw him take over the No. 1 job from high-priced veteran Cristobal Huet, while posting a .912 save percentage in 39 regular season games. In the playoffs he backstopped the Blackhawks to their first Stanley Cup since 1961. He's played just 42 games in his career, recording a 27-8-5 record.
Chris Botta argued on Thursday that it would be extremely difficult for the Blackhawks to walk away from Niemi simply based on the other alternatives the Blackhawks could turn to in net. The best remaining free agent on the market is probably former Dallas Stars goaltender Marty Turco, who has appeared to receive little interest outside of a brief flirtation with the Philadelphia Flyers at the start of the free agency period. There was a rumor circulating around the Internet late this week that if Chicago decided to part ways with Niemi, Turco would be the player to replace him.
According to CapGeek, the Blackhawks are already over the $59.4 million cap ceiling as of July 31 (teams can be as much as 10 percent over until the start of the season) and only have 17 players under contract for the upcoming season. It's possible they could eat the $5 million cap hit owed to Huet.
Already this offseason Chicago has traded forwards Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Kris Versteeg, while also having to match a restricted free agent offer sheet ($3.5 million per year over four years) that defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson signed with the San Jose Sharks.