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Niemi Talks Blackhawks

from David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune,

In another 15 years, I wonder if the image of Niemi making saves still will be recognizable in the memories of Blackhawks fans. Or if, by then, Niemi will be a mere answer to a trivia question asking who was the goaltender the first time the Hawks won the Cup this century.

If you still have a hard time accepting the salary-cap machinations two weeks ago that resulted in Niemi becoming an ex-Blackhawk, you’re not the only one.

“I thought it would get worked out all along and never really thought it wouldn’t,” Niemi said. “And then when it happened and they signed (Marty) Turco, I was real disappointed. I still am. But it worked out for them, so …”

Niemi didn’t finish his sentence.

But the pain in his voice was obvious when he discussed the speed with which the Hawks moved on after an arbitrator awarded Niemi a $2.75 million salary the team chose not to pay.


Filed in: NHL Teams, Chicago Blackhawks, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: antti+niemi


pjwalny's avatar

Testing One two.

Posted by pjwalny from Not Detroit, evidently?? on 08/16/10 at 02:45 AM ET

Hippy Dave's avatar

Man they really screwed up there.  Hjalmarsson for Neimi?  Really?

It’s some sort of insane feeling to realize what would have been a great rivalry for Detroit and Chicago fans got botched by such terrible management decisions.  Maybe Scotty was a trojan horse.  Can’t wait for when Turco’s the backup goalie on the Wings in two years.  See you then, Chitown.

Posted by Hippy Dave from Somewhere West of Detroit on 08/16/10 at 05:06 AM ET


Hjalmarsson over Niemi was absolutely the right choice. Hjalmarsson is a top 3 defensemen on just about every team in the NHL, and could be moved to the top pair next year if Seebs has to be moved.

Beyond that, if it’s true that Niemi turned down 3 years for 8 mil (and his no comment in this article leads me to believe that it is true), then cya Antti. That would have been a very generous offer given the salary cap restraints and the limited experience Niemi has in the NHL.

Trying to read between the lines of what he said and how it all played out. I think the guy got very bad advice from his agent. He won’t admit that he has regrets, but it sure sounds like he has them. He’s now possibly facing becoming a backup and getting less money than he would have gotten to stay in Chicago and defend the Cup.

I thank Antti for all he did for Chicago in his short stay here. It’s too bad he had to get greedy on us.

Posted by Sarava on 08/16/10 at 08:28 AM ET

Moq's avatar

Sometimes I wonder if players and their agents really are that oblivious to the simple math of the salary cap, and the surprise therefore genuine when teams refuse to meet the salary demands. It’s not as simple as thinking that things will get “worked out all along”.

Given the choice, I would also choose Hjalmarsson over Niemi. To me, Hjalmarsson is a borderline second pairing, yet also young and talented enough to grow into a bigger role with more experience. You could say something similar in goaltending terms about Niemi, but Hjalmarsson appears the safer bet in achieving his potential. Time will tell if that assessment is correct.

Posted by Moq from Denmark on 08/16/10 at 09:27 AM ET

moocat's avatar

Greedy? His salary was in line with goalies of his stats and he just won the cup. His value might never be higher and this might have been his one chance at a really good payday. Niemi doesn’t look like he’s going to breakout and become a superstar, but rather be a solid netminder but we don’t know, and now Chicago won’t know either.

Hawks mismanagement is to blame plain and simple.

Posted by moocat on 08/16/10 at 09:31 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

From the article:

“It seemed like they already had a plan without me,” Niemi said without any hint of bitterness. “I don’t think I had another choice.”

I asked Niemi if he regretted going to arbitration in the first place, a right that was his as a player older than 25 but a decision that forced both sides into a corner they may have preferred to avoid.

To copy Pat Foley, Niemi said no.

“I have no regrets,” Niemi said, sounding less than convincing.

Does this sound like spin to anybody else?  The Trib is flat-out ridiculous with the way they’ve covered the Hawks this offseason.

It’s too bad he had to get greedy on us.

Posted by Sarava on 08/16/10 at 07:28 AM ET

Yeah, it’s a shame that he didn’t accept less than half of Cristobal Huet’s contract value, despite winning a cup and having numbers similar to Huet’s Montreal and Washington figures.  He doesn’t owe the Blackhawks a discount.  I hope he wins another cup before Chicago does.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/16/10 at 09:31 AM ET

Moq's avatar

Hawks mismanagement is to blame plain and simple.

Quite. I don’t think that Niemi deserves the “greed” epithet. Quite a few goaltenders have received more for less, even without a “Cup” resume. The Blackhawks brought themselves into a situation where they had no room to retain Niemi (helped by a gentle San Jose nudge), however reasonable the contract from an objective point of view. That’s all there is to it.

Posted by Moq from Denmark on 08/16/10 at 11:33 AM ET


The Hawks were Stanley Cup favorites in the eyes of many long before any of you ever heard of Antti Niemi. Huet being overpaid has nothing to do with what a goalie with only a half season experience should get. It’s too risky that he will be exposed (most likely for leaving gaping holes in the upper part of the net), as many other hot starting goaltenders have been after 1/2 season or more.

Maybe greedy was the wrong word. Stupid probably is a better word. If he signed for one year at a decent price, he would have been an UFA at the start of next summer and been on top of the world. Niemi and his agent blew it bigtime here.

Posted by Sarava on 08/16/10 at 12:37 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Huet being overpaid has nothing to do with what a goalie with only a half season experience should get.

Huet’s overblown contract doesn’t mean that Niemi is worth more, but Huet’s overblown contract has a ton to do with why niemi is a free agent now.  Even as a Wings fan, I don’t think that $2.75M is a ridiculous amount for Niemi’s potential.

Stupid probably is a better word. If he signed for one year at a decent price, he would have been an UFA at the start of next summer and been on top of the world.

And if he signed for one year at an underpayment and blew out his groin, ending his career, would it have still been the smart decision?  Who says Niemi would be at the top of the world behind Chicago’s much-depleted squad after this year?  It’s not likely they’ll repeat to win the cup.  With the depth they’ve lost, it’s more likely that he would have had worse numbers next year than his totals from this season, which would have lowered his value and cost him more money.  Chicago took a step backward in the goaltending department because of poor cap management, not because Niemi was stupid or greedy.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/16/10 at 12:54 PM ET


Let me ask you this. If he turned down 3 years for 8 mil as seems likely…how many professional athletes are offered a guaranteed 8 mil after only a half season in the league? It doesn’t happen for the most part, unless you’re talking about a top 10 pick in the NFL draft.

Niemi came in to a golden situation and played admirably. But at times the Hawks also won despite him (much of the SCF). I’m sorry, but if he was offered 8 mil guaranteed and he turned it down…he’s a fool IMO. He may never see that 8 mil offered ever again.

Posted by Sarava on 08/16/10 at 01:11 PM ET


I know every dollar counts for the Hawks, as well it does for every other team, but I think it just speaks volumes of the situation the Hawks put themselves in that if the they did offer him that deal (8mil for 3 years), they couldn’t go up another $80k/yr to keep Niemi.

Posted by pens fan in baltimore on 08/16/10 at 01:25 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Jaroslav Halak has 101 games of NHL experience and a guaranteed $15M with no Stanley Cup.  Basically twice the experience and just about twice the pay (although his contract is four years, making his cap hit $3.75M)

Chris Mason had 44 games of NHL experience when he was given a 3-year, $9M contract by Nashville without ever having won a Stanley Cup.

Jonas Hiller is getting $18M over four years from the ducks after 128 games of NHL experience.

Pekka Rinne will make $6.8M over two years for his 113 NHL games and only six playoff games

All of these players have cap hits over the $2.75M that Niemi was awarded in arbitration.  The Hawks basically “won” the arbitration case with the guy coming down that much from the $3M that I believe Niemi was looking for and they still walked away from him.  This is the Hawks stupidity.  Niemi is a better goalie than Turco at this point in his career.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/16/10 at 02:10 PM ET


I think most people would rather have Pekka Rinne, Jonas Hiller or Jaroslav Halak than Niemi. Rinne outplayed Niemi in round 1 IMO, but Niemi had the better team in front of him. I’m not sure what good you think it does to compare Niemi to these guys. If you swapped teams Halak and Niemi were on for these past playoffs, do you really think Montreal even gets past Washington, let alone the Penguins as well?

As for Chris Mason, times were different a few years back. The massive cap crunch, let alone the de-emphasis on overpaying goaltending wasn’t the same as what it is today.

Posted by Sarava on 08/16/10 at 02:52 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Funny how de-emphasis on overpaying goaltending means the exact same thing as emphasis on getting goaltenders cheaper.

Yes, teams would rather have any of those three goaltenders over Antti Niemi, that’s why they’re all paid significantly more than $2.75M per season.  If anything, that shows that Niemi’s value is very close to what the arbitrator awarded and the Hawks walked away from.  That doesn’t mean that refusing $2.67M was a boneheaded or greedy move by Niemi.  He’s worth what he was awarded.  He thought he was worth about $3M and I don’t think he or his agent are stupid for going to arbitration and wanting that.  $333,000 is a shitload of money and a world of difference.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/16/10 at 03:35 PM ET


it just speaks volumes of the situation the Hawks put themselves in that if the they did offer him that deal (8mil for 3 years), they couldn’t go up another $80k/yr to keep Niemi.

I’ve been wondering the same thing.  Look at capgeek.com, take away Turco, and add Niemi at 2.67 mil.  That puts the Hawks $4,969,922 over the cap…  apparently a number somehow acceptable to the team if the reports of 8 mil over 3 years is true.

Now do the same math with Niemi at 2.75 mil and the Hawks are $5,053,256 over the cap…  and that’s somehow not acceptable, even with Huet’s 5.625 mil coming off if/when he’s sent to Rockford?

It just doesn’t make sense to me.

Unless maybe the reports of 8 mil/3 years aren’t true.  If results or conclusions don’t make sense it often means that one of the initial assumptions is false.

Posted by BobTheZee on 08/16/10 at 04:52 PM ET


Niemi is only worth what a team pays him. The arbitrator doesn’t cut the checks here. We’ll see what he eventually gets, if it’s a contending team, and if he even goes in as a starter.

For JJ - I suspect the offer to Niemi came before the Sharks offersheet to Hjalmarsson, at which point the Hawks probably expected to land him for significantly less cap $$$ than they were forced to spend. If that’s true, it would have been interesting to see if Niemi had signed this deal…would the Hawks have let Hammer walk…or traded someone else to clear room for Hammer?

Posted by Sarava on 08/16/10 at 05:39 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I personally don’t think there was much of anything the Hawks were going to do to keep Niemi, regardless of the Hjalmarsson situation.  I don’t know if I particularly agree that Hjalmarsson is necessarily more valuable than Niemi, but if I had to choose one or the other to join my team, I’d take the big defenseman, so I guess there’s the answer.

Of course, if the Hawks had signed Niemi to 3 years, $8M, they could also have signed Hjalmarsson to his offer sheed and made room for them both by dumping Huet, which they’ll still do once they’re allowed to.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/16/10 at 05:46 PM ET


I don’t think the Hawks wanted to push the cap against the ultimate limit. With having Turco’s lower cap hit, a lot of options open up. For one, guys like Beach and Vishnevskiy can actually make the team if they earn it in training camp. There wouldn’t have been room with Niemi, because the bottom of the roster would have been loaded with 600k max guys.

Also they probably will try to save a few bucks with the cap for next spring when the trading deadline comes around, to replace some of these guys who may not work out (Stalberg, Vishnevskiy, Skille…who knows). They probably could afford a decent salary in a trade that late in the season, especially if they take care of the cap until then, and they certainly have the assets to make such a trade due to all the recent trades.

Posted by Sarava on 08/16/10 at 06:17 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

So Niemi’s options were to sign for a slightly lower amount than he wanted and then likely be traded when the Hjalmarsson offer sheet issue came up or to sign for about $1.5M, it seems.

I’m thinking Niemi made the right decision to go through with arbitration.  We’ll see where he goes from here.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/16/10 at 06:21 PM ET

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