Reported by multiple sources on Wednesday was the free agent signing of former Chicago Blackhawks net-minder, Antti Niemi. San Jose has ended a near month of waiting, in which Niemi was left gasping for reasoning into why a Stanley Cup winning goaltender was without a job.
The Sharks have unofficially signed Niemi to a $2 million contract, which in turn ends up being $750,000 less than the NHL arbitrator awarded him back on July 31st.
Niemi No No… is no more.
The Finnish Fortress… well still could be, but now as a rival.
So how about the Finnish Fish? Hmmmm…sounds about right. Blackhawks fans as a whole could only hope for a flop as conference foes.
Sharks’ front office officials time and time again reiterated that they had never been interested in the young Finnish goaltender. What can’t be ignored is the offer sheet that was handed to Nikolas Hjalmarsson.
Hjalmarsson was a restricted free agent entering the offseason and with salary cap woes, the Blackhawks were determined to keep the second-line defenseman a Hawk.
Unfortunately, when a player produces on the ice consistently at a young age they are almost in tune to earn more the following season(s). This was not an issue the Blackhawks would be surprised by. What the true surprise was the amount at which the Sharks tried to put forth in order to lure away a good defensive player.
On July 9th, the offer sheet was signed with San Jose for a $14 million deal for over four years. Knowing that Hjalmarsson was a player the Hawks would not back down from, it is now easy to understand why the offer sheet was dealt.
With the signing of Hjalmarsson, the Hawks chances of signing Niemi minimized. This served as blood in the water for the Sharks after deciding to part with Evgeni Nabakov.
Perhaps the best move of the offseason by any team, this exactly displays how patience can become precedence in a hard salary cap era. The Blackhawks were forced to choose one or the other. Their loss ultimately has become the Sharks gain.
In saying this, does this catapult the Sharks into elite status? Well it is hard to imagine one considering them anything but. Will it be hard for fans to chant against a Stanley Cup hero in Niemi? Possibly…especially if Niemi is the one who steals the game in the manner he did so many times as a Blackhawk.