Monday, August 2, 2010

Hawks pass on Niemi; Sign Turco

Not surprisingly, the Blackhawks have walked away from signing Antti Niemi to the $2.75 million arbitration awarded to the Finnish goaltender. Instead, the Hawks have agreed to a terms with Marty Turco on a 1-year $1.3 million contract. Turco has played the past 9 seasons with the Dallas Stars and is a 3-time All-star.

Niemi becomes the 8th Blackhawk to depart from the team this off-season since winning the Stanley Cup. The likelihood of this outcome was fairly clear when GM Stan Bowman matched the 4-year $14 million offer sheet for defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson last month.  The organization feels that with preserving their young core, they can go deep with a solid net-minder such as Turco.

I agree with the Blackhawks' decision to let Niemi go as a UFA. Sure, he played well and posted some very solid numbers but I feel the driving factor there was the defense in front of him. Niemi's size allows consistency when facing the first shot on net, but rebounds are an area which he struggles if his defense can't clear the puck or buy him recovery time.

Chicago will definitely bury Cristobal Huet, along with his $5.62+ million cap hit, in the AHL leaving them with just over $3 million in cap space with still 5 roster spots to fill so there's more work ahead for the defending champs.

The market conditions for goalies this free agency along with cap management issues in Chi-town contributed to Niemi's departure. Where will he end up? The KHL? If I'm Ottawa Senators' GM Bryan Murray, I might think about dumping the injury-ridden Pascal Leclaire in the minors and signing Niemi.

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