As a Blackhawks fan, July 29th has been noted in my cell phone since we learned of the arbitration date.
As many know an arbitrator will decide on a ruling regarding the showdown between the club and its netminder.
Many have been waiting in hopes to see the situation being resolved beforehand, but unfortunately those hopes have been extinguished… well to a mere flicker.
Now with the arbitration 24 hours away, both sides have now seen the arguments of the opposition. Accordingly, the Blackhawks’ front office has been seeking right around $2 million, while agent Bill Zito has been waiting for an offer in the $3 to $4 million dollar range.
While arguments will be made by both sides, in the end it will be decided by an arbitrator that isn’t necessarily familiar with hockey at all.
What can be looked at is the fact that players in similar situations will be making between $1.9 million to $3.8 million.
Who you may ask?
Pekka Rinne, $2.8 million… another Finnish net-minder had a fabulous rookie season with the Nashville Predators. It was a surprise to most as he was brought up to supplant Dan Ellis. This past season he started in 58 regular season games and then throughout the first round playoff series against the Hawks. He compiled a .911 save percentage over the entire season. Realistically, Rinne has now played in the majority of the Predators games the last two seasons.
Jaroslav Halak, $3.75 million… had a brilliant season in Montreal. While only starting in 45 games, he will take the ice this coming season as a St. Louis Blue. Much of Halak’s momentum was generated in the playoffs, where at times he carried the Canadiens’ single-handedly through games. He finished with a .923 save percentage. Halak will enter his first season as the clear starting goaltender.
Craig Anderson, $2.125 million… became the Colorado Avalanche season starter and performed great. He compiled 71 starts over the season, while helping lead his team to the Western Conference Quarterfinals. At the close of the season he managed to compose a .924 and .917 save percentages over the past two seasons.
Jonathan Quick, $1.9 million… is a member and future of the Los Angeles Kings. While struggling a bit during the playoffs, he still provided many reasons that the Kings have a bright future. Being only 24, he has been referenced as the next goaltender in position to represent Team USA.
All goaltenders are very comparable, if not a few being tad bit better statistically. Niemi finished .912 save percentage over 39 regular season games, while posting a .910 save percentage in the playoffs. He has now played in 64 games as a Hawk.
Niemi clearly doesn’t have the games under his belt, but does have a Stanley Cup to prove he can handle pressure. The fact could be argued that three out of the four goaltenders listed would’ve been capable of being part of the Blackhawks’ playoff run.
What can be established is while the likes of each of the mentioned net-minders, they didn’t have the depth surrounding them like Niemi did. How would have the season went if Halak or Rinne played for the Hawks?
Fairly argued, the arbitrator should lean slightly above the Blackhawks ideal salary of $2 million.
If a projection had to be made I would comfortably assume Niemi being awarded a decision somewhere between $2.6-$2.8 million for the upcoming season. A figure that the Hawks have been preparing for by offering and signing prospects in a cap friendly manner.
Tomorrow will be interesting and Hawks fans shouldn’t be nervous at the fact that this will make or break a season.
Just ask Detroit how hard it is to find a goalie to be successful.