July 29, 2010
With Chicago's tight salary cap situation, Niemi's award is one of the more interesting cases of the off-season arbitration process. The difference between what's expected to be awarded to Niemi is about $1 million depending on who you talk to. The thought is that Niemi and his agent Bill Zito are looking for at least $3 million a season, while Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman would love a $2 million decision to have to depart with his Stanley Cup-winning goaltender.
ESPN's Scott Burnside suggests two veteran goaltenders still on the market that could be cheap alternatives should Chicago walk away from the arbiter's decision:
"If the Blackhawks walk away from Niemi, they will almost certainly set their sights on a veteran like Marty Turco or Jose Theodore, who would have to agree to play for somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million.
Would it be worth it to Turco who turned down similar money earlier this summer to play in Philadelphia to get a shot at a Stanley Cup?
One would think so.
Or is the risk of giving up on a goaltending prospect like Niemi so great that Bowman will have no choice but to bite the bullet and agree to the arbitration award and simply find another body to throw over the side before the start of the season?"
Turco's agent already said that he expects a deal for his client within the next 7-10 days and that it'll be with a contender. He also said that the Turco sweepstakes is down to three teams with many believing Chicago and the Philadelphia Flyers are in the mix.
According to his agent, Turco has turned down offers from teams and with the off-season moving on, the veteran net minder could be had for cheap if that option comes available for the Blackhawks.