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Monday August 2, 2010 5:52 pm

Antti Niemi snubbed in favor of MartyTurco by Chicago Blackhawks

Posted by Adrien Griffin Categories: Athletes, NHL,

Antti NiemiThe Chicago Blackhawks have made their decision. Rookie-turned sophomore goaltender Antti Niemi will not return to Chicago and veteran Marty Turco will don the red and black jersey for the defending Stanley Cup champions in the upcoming 2010-11 season. The Hawks turned down Niemi’s $2.75 million salary that was awarded by an arbitrator. The Hawks tried to find a way to justify the money, but after an $826,875 rookie contract, it was too difficult to fit the dramatic price tag increase under the salary cap.

Niemi becomes the eighth player to leave Chicago after ending the NHL’s longest Stanley Cup drought, and it was not entirely unexpected. Often goaltending is credited as being a major factor in a championship, but Niemi’s .912 save percentage last season is about as average as it gets, but couple with a 2.25 goals against average shows just how good his defense was in front of him at stopping shots. He now finds himself looking for a new home, but those willing to take a chance on a Stanley Cup-winning goalie with less than 70 NHL games to his credit may be few and far between.

Turco now joins the Hawks for just under $2 million, which is not great relief under the cap compared to what Niemi would have made, but every little bit helps. Turco’s experience will also be useful as many of the Hawks players are young, and a veteran in the locker room can help keep things under control. The real question is whether or not Turco can pick up where Niemi left off and carry Chicago deep into the postseason again.

It’s often hard to say whether a team that wins a championship will be capable of repeating, but this time around, it looks a lot safer than usual to say that Chicago doesn’t stand a chance of doing so. Almost half of the team has been moved out and while much of the young core remain, their postseason run was as much about getting hot while the rest the competition was not as it was talent and skills. It will be interesting to watch how far the Hawks fall this upcoming season.



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