The Chicago Blackhawks have walked away from the $2.75 million contract that was awarded to Antti Niemi in arbitration, which makes the Stanley Cup-winning goalie an unrestricted free agent.

Instead, the Blackhawks have signed veteran netminder Marty Turco to a one-year, $1.3 million contract.

The team confirmed the goalie shuffle in a conference call on Monday.

Niemi beat out Cristobal Huet for the number one job in Chicago and ended up leading the team to its first championship since 1961. The 26-year old Finnish netminder went 26-7-4 with seven shutouts in 39 regular season games, and then 16-6 in the playoffs with a 2.63 GAA and a .910 save percentage.

Niemi is the latest member of the Stanley Cup winners to be let go in the off-season by a Chicago club that is under a salary cap crunch. Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, Kris Versteeg, and now Niemi will all be with new teams this season.

Niemi is also the first goalie to win a Stanley Cup and then depart for a new team since Nikolai Khabibulin left Tampa Bay for Chicago after the Lightning won the title in 2004.


  1. Leafs_the_word says:

    I like that Chicago is making for a good cap experiment.  You look at their top six and top four, they're all locked up long term so IMO we should all be rooting for their prospects to develop and that they draft well as the Hawks look to remain in cap hell for at leat 3-4 years they'll struggle to extend their young talent's residence in Chicago.

    However the Hawks do have flexibilty to move prospects for affordable plugs.  Their situation should make for good fodder for trade rumors for the next few seasons.

  2. CofRED says:

    The only problem I see with that is still what I stated before, moving Kipper creates a massive hole in net.  And maybe getting Neimi by signing and/or Leighton by trade would work out and as a tandem they could make it work, possible even better since neither one would be starting 75 games and burning out by playoff time. 

    On the other hand, Neimi is going into his sophmore year after a decent rookie regular season and a good playoofs, winning the cup behind a great team.  Leighton is a career backup who got hot behind a team that was mostly pretty decent.  Either one could be the next Kipper, or they could both turn out to be the next Jim Carey; it's still up for debate. 

    And I know that you could say that any player brings a certain risk with them, but if it doesn't pan out, the Flames are in a big heap of trouble.  Not only would the goalie tandem they have not be able to stop a beach ball, but there's no goalie of the future either.  That's why I say trading Kipper right now has to land either a known, reliable replacement, or a serious blue chip goalie prospect.

    If the Flames don't bounce back this year and make it to at least the SECOND round of playoffs (first round and out isn't good enough for me) then I agree, it's time to start looking at tearing it down while guys still have some value.  But at the same time a guy has to look down the pipeline and realize that at least in goal, there's nothing coming up to fill the gap.  If you're going to send out your number 1 goalie, you have to have a pretty good contingency plan or it's going to be a very, very long rebuild.  Bryzgalov situations (free #1 goalies) don't come around very often.

  3. CofRED says:

    I agree with what you're saying, I just feel that if you're going to ship out your number 1 goalie/MVP, you had better have a pretty solid contingency plan or you'll be looking at 7 playoff free years all over again.  Neimi could turn into Jim Carey (or Roman Turek, or any of the interchangable jersey-fillers that never cut it during the Flames "down" years) just as easily as he could turn into Nicklas Backstrom.  And if they don't adress the situation as they move Kipper, they could be a long time waiting for their chance.

    I guess it could be argued that Kipper was kind of in the same boat and he panned out, but Sutter already knew him well from his SJ days so he wasn't a complete unknown.  And for every Kipper there is about 30 Andrei Trefilovs.

  4. albertateams says:

    As opposed to the massive hole we have for top prospects / youth at forward. There are no guarantees that either goalie turns into a franchise type player, however I'm not suggesting long term deals for either 2-3 years max. preferable 1-2 to see how it pans out. Niemi 26 and Leighton 29 gets the team a little younger, while they probably are not going to develop into the next Kipper they at the very least will provide average goaltending. If neither looks like they are a true number 1 then next year has some really good UFA goalies that could be signed.

    The problem with standing pat and missing the playoffs this year means that most likely key guys (kipper, JI) had off years. Kipper's value right now won't be any higher next offseason even if he plays as well, as he will be a year older.

    Adding some youth , at the expense of Kipper  better positions the flames  going forward  and  in the present added  talent up front plus a decent free agent goalie should make the team as competitive.

    I could see your point more if the trade was for picks or prospects not capable of contributing. I still think that Irving is a possibility for the #1 job in 2-3 years, its still to early to right him off at present. He's not ready now but 2 years is a lot of development time for a young goalie.

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