The 26-year-old, Finnish net-minder, will be pressed for decisions within the next few days.  With the NHL draft this weekend in Los Angeles, CA, that means the free agency period is right around the corner.

As a restricted free agent, the Blackhawks will have the opportunity to match any offer.  Notice how I say opportunity and not ability?

It seems like continuous déjà vu when discussing the Blackhawks’ off-season.  With the salary cap creating tight circumstances, the only way to be sure of getting back those who can truly carry the team is to be thorough.

Lucrative signings such as:  Brian Campbell, Cristobal Huet and Marian Hossa, will not be in sight this season.  The Hawks believe they have the corner stones of a strong foundation and the way to keep Niemi is to sign him before the free agency period opens.

How couldn’t the organization after winning a Stanley Cup?

At the start of last season, the majority of concerns revolving around the Blackhawks was an inconsistent goaltending.  Antti Niemi provided the answer, but unfortunately that concern could be refreshed come the drop of the puck next season.

While rumors have begun drifting around in regards to a demanded pay hike and elongated type extension, Niemi has remained quiet about next season.  Repeatedly he has stated that he doesn’t wish to address contract questioning.

So what do we take from this?  He has been a very big PR tool for the Blackhawks’ organization.  Since the Cup finals he has been attending many “fan appreciation” type functions.  Unfortunately the active role being played doesn’t settle too well in the stomachs of those who want the re-assurance of having their number one goaltender back for a title defending season.

For those looking for a bright-side to the outlook, you have to search no further than the free agency market itself.  It is flooded with success, experience and competition.  What this will do is drive the salaries down due to the fact having so much talent dilutes the pool.

Take a look at the available goaltenders that may help the Blackhawks lure Niemi back to Chicago:

As you can see, the depth is immense.   The talent and experience is very prominent and for this reason, Antti Niemi will be back in Chicago next year.

Aside from the fact that he may get more elsewhere, why leave when the chance to win is so great?  The mere idea of Niemi in any other jersey is unlikely.

The NHL loves him in Chicago.  The Blackhawks love him in Chicago.  Highlight-reels love him in Chicago.  Chicago loves him in Chicago.  Niemi will return, give him a pen and show him the dotted line.

2 thoughts on “Antti Niemi Will Be Back For Blackhawks’ 2010 Opener”

  1. Actually, there are a few things wrong w/ this piece.

    First, Niemi and the Blackhawks have already entered arbitration, which means offer sheets be damned the Hawks have until the meeting w/ the 3rd party is set by the league (late-july/early-aug) to get a deal done. If the arbitrator comes back w/ a ridiculous number, or a deal can’t get done, they can walk.

    Secondly, the Hawks can’t/shouldn’t want any of the goalies you list except MAYBE Ellis, and even that’s a stretch. With roughly a $3-$3.5M cap to spend on a #1 netminder, the idea of bringing in Turco/Nabokov is dead and Mason = Huet 2.0 – no thank you. Mason also reportedly talked his way out of StL by asking for a 3 yr/$12M deal – money the Blues clearly would rather pay Halak (why not?!?)

    The biggest issue, though, is that it’s unlikely that the arbitrator will bring back a decision to give Niemi A) a long-term deal with big money or B) more than one season.

    Niemi will be back, and it will probably be Crawford/Toivonen backing him up.

  2. Savoir_Faire_18

    I have not seen any media regarding either side filing for arbitration.

    The goalies listed in the article I wouldn’t want the Hawks to necessarily get. It was purely a statement referring to the depth of the free agency pool, regarding the goaltending.

    I would love to see Toivonen the time to develop in Rockford a bit longer. There is no reason to rush him to the NHL just to sit on the bench. I still can see them pick up a CHEAP veteran to ride the pine. I don’t see how they could even trust Crawford on the bench.

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