The Chicago Blackhawks have parted ways with another 2010 Playoff hero; This time letting Goalie Antti Niemi walk into unrestricted free agency after an arbitrator awarded Niemi a $2.75 million judgement on Saturday. That amount proved to be too high of a number for the salary cap strapped Blackhawks.
This past season Niemi took over the Hawks starting duties fromCristobal Huet during the regular season, posting a 26-7-4 record,with a 2.25 GAA, .912 SV%, and recorded 7 shutouts. His meteoric rise was capped off by leading the Blackhawks to there first Stanley Cup in 49 years. Throughout the playoffs Niemi was a difference maker postinga 16-6 records with a 2.63 GAA, and a .910SV%.
“We made several contract offers, including a multi-year offer, and we were never able to work it out,” Hawks general manager Stan Bowman said. “We decided to go in another direction.
With Niemi out of the equation for the Hawks the team made a quick move and signed goalie Marty Turco. Turco a 3 time All-Star is a veteran that will be comfortable between the posts in Chicago. Turco, 34, went 22-20 last season with a 2.72 goals against and a .913 save percentage. Turco expressed his pleasure with the move by saying
“I’m more than excited to help Chicago do what they want to do, which is [defend] the Stanley Cup. It’s been almost a dream come true to play for an Original Six team, especially one with [the number of] Tony Esposito, who’s from my hometown [Saul Ste. Marie, Ontario], up in the rafters. It’s an amazing day for my family and me to become a Blackhawk.”
With Turco in place the Blackhawks must try and figure out what to do with Cristobal Huet who the Hawks are trying to part with because of his huge contract. With this being said the Hawks will focus on trying to give the young goaltender Coery Crawford some shots with Turco mentoring him. Anti Niemi was spectacular in the Stanley Cup playoffs and as a result teams are coming to his Agent Bill Zito with offers. Teams such as the Sharks and Flyers have shown the most interest.
“[Niemi] was a big part of it, clearly. But we’re we’re on to the next thing. We’re excited about the opportunity to defend the Cup. And we’re very excited to have someone of Marty’s caliber in our organization. We have to look forward. We had a great season last year, a great ending, but we’re looking forward.” Bowman said.