The dismantling of the Stanley Cup champions continue, as the Chicago Blackhawks walked away from their Cup winning goalie Antti Niemi's arbitration reward (one year, $2.75M). Instead, they take a more affordable option of Marty Turco, who was out there on the market forever, who's contract is reported to be over one million dollars less; as Turco signed for one year at $1.3M.
The one thing about Niemi that I don't get is the awe surrounding him. Sure, he did win a Cup; but he does remind me of a modern-day Johan Hedberg as a guy who came out of nowhere and took over the league by storm because no one knew much about him. While Niemi had a longer regular season stint and played well, as well as winning the Cup; but had the same scheme where they may have just been good because people didn't know how to read them like the goalies who had been in the league prior. That's not to take anything away from Niemi-- just calling it how I see it.
That said, I don't know how I would feel about taking Marty Turco over Niemi. Turco has all the goods, but does him being shell-shocked in Dallas the past two seasons make him a better option than a guy who's coming off a Stanley Cup victory from out of nowhere?? Niemi had better regular season numbers than Turco, sans save percentage; but the defense around Niemi was probably leaps and bounds over what Turco had in front of him. If you put Turco with the quality of what the Hawks have, it could turn his career around.
The age thing is another factor, with Turco turning 35 in the middle of this month and Niemi is going to be 27 at the end of this month. Turco hasn't been injured as often as some older workhorses, but there's always that worry he could go down at any time, which would make the move that much worse if Niemi goes on and has a stellar year wherever he lands. All eyes will be on Turco to succeed, especially in the Chicagoland area, who have a reason to be pro-Antti Niemi.
Speaking of which, where does Niemi go now?? A Cup winning goalie, under 30 years old, and able to steal games if need be and actually be effective. Sure, you'll have the obvious teams with shaky goaltending dispositions (Washington, San Jose, Philadelphia); but at the same time-- could he be hung out there without a suitor for a while and have to wait until another guy goes down in order to get a gig as a starter in the NHL??
In the end, this adds to the dismantling of the Stanley Cup Champs and the oddities of the NHL off-season; along with Ilya Kovalchuk's situation-- it's been a bizarre summer. Turco has a lot to prove, but doesn't need to do much to prove it. He's a solid goalie and behind that Chicago's defense; he'll regain what he lost in Dallas. Niemi may have a lot of people after him, but can't afford to take him on because they don't have the money to bring him in. It could be a situation where Niemi is sitting on the side, losing his allure and prowess because teams have to wait for someone to get injured.