August 02, 2010
We pictured Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman feverishly playing with CapGeek's cap calculator over the past 48 hours trying to find ways to make Antti Niemi's(notes) one-year, $2.75 million arbitration award fit into his team's salary structure.
Apparently no combinations worked as this morning Bowman decided to walk away from the decision this morning and immediately sign Marty Turco(notes) to a one-year deal worth between $1 million-$1.5 million according to Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune. Niemi now hits the open market as an unrestricted free agent.
It's hard to imagine Chicago not attempting to find a bit more room in their salary cap to squeeze Niemi in. Bowman could have accepted the ruling and spent the next few weeks freeing up even more space on the Blackhawks' roster. But it's a bold move by Bowman and a decision that is another punch to the stomach for Blackhawks fans. Watching Niemi walk and bringing on the 35-year old Turco on a short-term deal could also be a clue into Bowman's philosophy when it comes to goaltending: don't pay a high premium.
Does this move also mean that Cristobal Huet(notes) will be on the Blackhawks roster next season? If the team was truly planning to dump him to Rockford of the AHL (if a trade couldn't be had) to free up space, wouldn't that have been enough to take on the Niemi award?
Now that he's a free agent, Niemi's going to want to get paid and likely want some security after a Stanley Cup-winning season. So where does this put his future? Philadelphia? San Jose? Montreal? Russia?