Marty Turco In, Annti Niemi Out?

August 1st, 2010 No Comments

When the arbitration ruling came back in Annti Niemi’s favor it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the Chicago Blackhawks were going to be forced to part ways with the Finnish netminder.

The Blackhawks are thought to have presented a case for Niemi making about $1.75 million, with Niemi’s agent countering with a demand near $4 million.

In the end, the arbitrator awarded Niemi a one-year deal worth $2.75 million, which effectively priced Niemi out of Chicago’s plans for the 2010-11 season.

Through 39 regular season games with Chicago Niemi assembled a 26-7-4 record while posting a 2.25 goals against average and a .912 save percentage.

Niemi followed up a decent regular season by backstopping the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. During the playoffs Niemi compiled a 16-6 record with a 2.63 GAA and .910 save percentage.

While Niemi’s overall numbers look impressive, there are still many NHL fans that believe him to be overrated, especially in light of his penchant for giving up bad goals and questionable play during the Cup Finals.

The Blackhawks currently have 17 players under contract for the 2010-11 season at a cost of $59,868,256, which puts them just over $400,000 over the League imposed salary cap of $59.4 million.

With Niemi likely too expensive it appears as if the Chicago Blackhawks are on the verge of signing veteran goaltender Marty Turco to a one-year $1.75 million contract.

Turco, 35, played in 53 games with the Dallas Stars last season—the lowest game total since the 2002-03 season when he played in 55 games.

Through 53 games, Turco registered a 22-20-11 record with a 2.72 GAA and a .913 save percentage.

Originally taken in the fifth round (124th overall) in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, Turco will easily fill the void left by Niemi, if and when he is traded, which seems immanent.

With a glut of goaltenders available via free agency it may be a bit tricky for the Blackhawks to find a taker for Niemi. That said, given the fact that Niemi is only 26 years-old and his recent Stanley Cup success, some NHL team is bound to step up.

If the Blackhawks were to trade Niemi they would likely being looking to acquire more prospects and not a roster player. It has been reported that, depsite a log jam in between the pipes, that the Edmonton Oilers may be interested in Niemi’s services.

The Blackhawks are thought to be leaning towards buying out veteran goaltender Cristobel Huet who has two-years left on his four-year $22 million deal with the Hawks.

Huet has exhibited an inability to come up big in the big game and has a penchant for giving up bad goals and goals in bunches. Simply put, given his poor history with Chicago, Huet is no longer in the Hawks’ long term plans and will likely be sent down to the minors.

The Blackhawks would then promote highly-touted goaltender Corey Crawford to assume the backup duties behind Turco with Crawford hopefully taking on the number one role as early as the 2011-12 season.

While no Turco signing is official just yet, it appears as if signing Turco is the only logical thing for the Blackhawks to do and, if Turco is willing to do the job for $1.5 million, he will be considered a bargain.

Until next time,

Peace!

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