Niemi Mind The Bollocks

Don’t worry, the Rangers aren’t interested in Antti Niemi. But amidst all the Kovy drama, Niemi is probably the biggest free agent available. And personally, I don’t think there’s enough talk or coverage on him.

The Chicago Blackhawks decided not to accept the arbitration award Niemi won. Which now means, Niemi is an unrestricted free agent. I know Chicago is strapped for cash and cap room, thus the player dumps, but to let Niemi go? This is the same guy that was a main cog in your championship run. Christobal Huet isn’t the answer, nor is Corey Crawford. And Marty “Fall Apart In The Playoffs” Turco is DEFINITELY not the answer.

It’s quite clear the hawks are not going to repeat (unless a miracle comes along, or a goalie forgets to go down).

Now we’re left with two questions:
What’s in store for the Blackhawks this coming season? and more importantly to us, Where’s Antti Niemi’s future going to be?

As an unrestricted free agent his options and price both have opened up. One would normally think that he has many options as teams have had goaltending problems across the NHL. But as The Hockey News put it, a lot of those spots have been filled or voided purposely:

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren was quick to deny interest in Niemi, while the Canadiens are committed to re-signing Carey Price. The Thrashers recently signed Chris Mason and have high hopes for Ondrej Pavelec, so rule them out as a fit.
One Internet-based rumor that claimed the Blue Jackets were interested in Niemi’s services was dismissed by Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch.
Capitals management has maintained they’ll stick with Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth, while the Stars re-signed Kari Lehtonen and added free agent Andrew Raycroft.
Internet speculation had Niemi or Jose Theodore in talks with the Nashville Predators, which was denied by Predators GM David Poile, who intends to give the young goalies in his system an opportunity to backup Pekka Rinne.
That leaves the Sharks. GM Doug Wilson’s signing of Antero Niittymaki last month left many observers puzzled and continues to lead to suggestions they are not done bolstering their goaltending.
The harsh reality is there aren’t many options available for Niemi.

I can certainly agree with that last line. It looks like Niemi was just a little too late to the table. Flyers seemed like a viable option, but just like the Blackhawks and Rangers, they’re having trouble fitting under the cap.

Could the Sharks be an option? Yes. But why not other places?
Tampa Bay Lightning could be a viable spot. Yes, Stevie Y grabbed Dan Ellis, but he’s not particularly known for his outstanding goaltender skills. Especially with Niemi on the market now. He could grab Niemi, split time maybe 70/30 with Ellis and trade Mike Smith for anything useful.

Also, the Ottawa Senators could be a destination for Antti. They have young goaltenders in Pascal Leclair and Brian Elliot, but neither have really proved themselves. Both have shades of good, but coming with eras of bad as well. Niemi would put playoff experience in a team that desperately needs goaltenders with it.

Niemi is sadly a little late to the game of the free market, but he still has some options. And I think anyone who snatches him up is stronger because of it.

Topics: Antti Niemi, Chicago Blackhawks, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning

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  • Shari

    All the Chicago Blackhawks fans are sracthing our heads about letting Niemi go. We knew the Organ-I-zation wanted to send a message. (We are the bosses. Don’t screw with us. Sign the contract we offer or be prepared to be set free.) Letting Neimi go was a bonehead move made just as a show of power. We definitely won’t repeat next year or the year after. We’re resigned to it, no matter how the organ-I-zation tries to spin it.

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