The Chicago Blackhawks lost their arbitration case with goaltender Antti Niemi and would have had to pay him $2.75 million in salary. They had the option to keep him, trade him or release him as a free agent. Their decision? They let him walk away.
I think this was a horrible decision. I was fine with the team trading Dustin Byfuglien and company to the Trashers, but I am not OK with this. If it was not for Niemi, the Blackhaws would not have won the Stanley Cup. I’m not saying that the rest of the Blackhawks’ roster wasn’t stocked full of talent– because it was– but if they would have had Cristobal Huet in goal instead of Niemi they wouldn’t have made it past the Vancouver Canucks.
The part that upsets me most about this deal is the fact that they agreed to sign Marty Turco to a one-year deal. First off, Turco is like 100 years old. Fine, he’s 34, but Niemi is only 26, so it seems like he’s much older. Plus, I don’t think Turco has much juice left in him. I mean yes, he’s a three-time All-Star and was once one of the highest-paid goalies in the league, but that was in the past. He did have 30 wins in the 2009 season, I’ll give him that. I just don’t think it’s enough.
The thing that might make this OK is if the Blackahawks start preparing Corey Crawford for his role as an NHL goalie. He saw a little ice time last season, but since Turco is only locked in for a year they should be preparing Crawford for his role as the 2011-2012 starter. You can’t really have a more important role than a goalie. You can score all the goals you want, but if there’s no one there to stop the other team from scoring too, you aren’t going to get too far. I really hope the Blackhawks know what they’re doing but I think that chances of a repeat just went down with Niemi’s release.