It’s Official, Stan Bowman’s word is not one to be trusted. Bowman earlier had stated that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Antti Niemi were not going anywhere, his word was bond with Hammer but I guess he spoke to soon on Niemi and now realizes he should not open his yap to Hawk fans sending them promises he can’t keep.
The Hawks chose to walk away from Antti Niemi whom now becomes an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any other team and have signed goaltender Marty Turco to a 1 year deal somewhere between the range of 1-1.5 million (nothing official due to exact figures yet)
What happens to Niemi now? Well, at 2.75 million per annum he is still quite expensive for a team to sign plus there are really not a ton of teams to go to as most clubs are set with starting goaltenders. Niemi could go to the KHL as an option which is not highly unlikely or he could sign with another club for a longer term deal for less money per year. We shall see. My prediction? Niemi signs with San Jose for 2 million the first year and progressively gets a higher salary for the next 2 years, a total of a 3 year deal just to get by the cap issues. Thomas Greiss will be put on waivers. Another possibility is the Edmonton Oilers could try to sign Niemi but that all depends on if Nikolai Khabibulin is imprisoned on his DUI charges.
I have been blasting away all year that I believe Niemi will be the next Hasek, with the Hawks luck he will be. I feel it is a mistake by Chicago to let him walk as I am sure there is something they could have done to make the numbers work but looking ahead to after this season they will need to give Brent Seabrook and Troy Brouwer healthy raises so this move will most certainly help. In the long run Hawks fans may be happy being able to contain those guys at the cost of losing Niemi, would Niemi be here more then this year if the Hawks decided to sign him? Perhaps, but it is doubtful as Chicago would have had to go through this exact same scenario after next year if they decide to try to sign Niemi again.
What does Marty Turco bring to the Hawks? Marty brings one of the hardest working goaltenders in the league, the best puck handling goalie and personally one of my favorites so that has to count for something right? Turco WILL excel with the Hawks style of puck possession and quick moving out of the defensive zone and into the oppositions offensive zone. He is one of the most agile goaltenders in the league even if he is one of the older goaltenders in the NHL right now. Also, his statistics were very comparable to Niemi’s last season and that was playing with a more less defensive inept team in the Dallas Stars. While I am not happy that Niemi has walked I can honestly say I am excited to see Turco in a Hawks uniform next year. Remember how many of us were begging for Chicago to get Turco last year for the cup run? Well we have him now.
Corey Crawford will also get a good chance to steal the #1 spot from Turco next season and I fully expect Crawford to get in 30 games next year, if Turco falters we may see Crawford take over that spot and pull a Niemi for Chicago this upcoming season. But in all reality, I expect Turco to have an outstanding year and Hawk fans won’t forget Niemi but will welcome Marty after he shows what he can do.
Last night I had some friends via twitter/facebook ask some questions so I will implement that in this blog below. To be fair I answered these last night prior to the Turco signing plus I only put 3 of the questions on this blog and will put the other questions on the next upcoming article.
@Bdmillhouser via twitter asks:
Q: When and how fast do goalies skills diminish.. could Turco have A great season if he came to the Blackhawks?
A: Great question. In my experience of being a goaltender for years I find that each individual is different. I was a late bloomer starting in my mid teens where as most start prior to that. In my case I caught on quickly and was playing AAA Midget in only my second year. With that said, you look at guys such as Antti Niemi who is an older rookie and took a lot more time to develop over seas plus playing a year in Rockford with the AHL IceHogs. Now the Nieminator is a Stanley cup winning goaltender. Then you have guys like Martin Brodeur who is still going strong and the last I heard was Hasek was possibly playing again (not in the NHL). In ending in regards to diminishing skills, in my opinion it is all in the preparation each individual takes to prolong his career, if he gets lazy or disinterested in playing anymore and stops working on each skill he will obviously be retiring a lot sooner then the harder working guys such as Turco for example.
In regards to Marty Turco I truly believe IF he does become a Hawk he will most definitely have a great season. His puck handling skills and work ethic are second to none in the NHL along with being one of the most athletic goaltenders in the league. Many feel Turco’s wheels have fallen off but he has been pretty decent playing with a somewhat mediocre Dallas club where their top D-man is Robidas. Now put him on a squad who has Campbell/Hammer/Seabrook/Keith, I guarantee you he would have a great season.
Brad via Facebook asks
Q: What do you think they should do with Niemi?
A: Honestly, I would try to keep him. Many say he was not the best goaltender in the Stanley Cup playoffs last season and I ask those people who was better? He WAS the best goaltender in the playoffs last year, he has the Cup ring to prove it. Rinne and Halak were the next best but Rinne played 1 round and Halak had a few brutal games as well. 2.75 mill is a lot for the Hawks to handle due to the cap struggles they have but I really believe Niemi is going to be the next Hasek. He has the potential and skill set to do so in my opinion. Do I think the Hawks will keep
@1Blackhawkfan via Twitter asks:
Q:Who do you see making the biggest impact next year in regards to rookies or 2nd year players? Thx!
A: I think Bryan Bickell will have a big impact this year playing on one of the top 2 lines, his size and pretty decent hands could get him 15-20 goals this upcoming season along with 80-100 pims. I believe Bickell will do his best to replace what Byfuglien did for us last year and will do a pretty bang up job on it. For rookies, as much as I would like to see Shawn Lalonde crack the lineup I have a hunch it may just be Nick Leddy. Of course that could change throughout the season as both could be sent back and forth to Rockford all year long pending on injuries what have you. Ivan Vishnevskiy is also in the mix. I guess we can throw Kyle Beach back in the mix now with the Hawks walking away from Niemi today as well, it will be interesting. So I guess my final answer will be Bickell and Leddy will be the biggest impact guys for rookies/2nd year players.
@freezethepuck via twitter asks:
Q: Who is the best current Hawks player and why in your opinion?
A: That is a tough question, most would say Toews, Hossa and Kane would also get big time props but I am going with Duncan Keith. Keith does everything right and by saying that I mean everything! He contributes offensively as he is our best offensive defenseman plus he is our best defensive defenseman also. His speed, mentality, puck handling skills and his on ice performance proves why he is deserving of the Norris trophy winner. Not only is he the best current Hawks player but he is my favourite Hawk player on a team with so many great skaters. I am so glad he will be with the Hawks for many years to come.
Thanks to all for submitting questions last night!
Well Hawks fans we have something to think about now, I guess we shall sit for a couple days and let it soak in that Niemi will no longer be a Hawk but I urge you to get excited about Marty Turco. I have already ordered my Turco jersey .
What do you think of walking away from Niemi?
Thanks for reading as always,
About the Author
Written by Trent Kondo
An all around sports fan and has been a Chicago BlackHawks supporter longer then he can remember. Currently writes for Prosportsblogging.com on the Blackhawks and NHLHotstove.com on the Edmonton Oilers. (If you would like to email feel free to contact Trent at TKONHOCKEY@gmail.com )