2010 NHL Free Agency: Antti Niemi's agent hopes to make deal before salary arbitration

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Niemi10.jpgAntti Niemi’s potential July 29 salary arbitration case would be one of the most intriguing in recent NHL history. It could set a precedent for players who have skinny resumes with big bullet points like “won starting job over $5.6 million goalie” and “back-stopped team to Stanley Cup in first playoff run.”

That being said, with 42 career regular season games and 22 playoff appearances, that resume is very skinny. Chicago Breaking News reports that Niemi’s agent Bill Zito would like to work out a deal with the team rather than falling to the mercy of the arbitration judges.

Niemi has an arbitration hearing scheduled for July 29, and his salary for the 2010-11 season will be determined at that time unless his agent Bill Zito and Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman can reach a deal before then.

“There are a number of different ways to go and I guess it’s up to Stan and I to try and find something that makes sense for everybody,” Zito said Wednesday on “The Mully & Hanley Show” on WSCR-AM 670. “Antti would like to stay and like to be a part of this thing and I guess the onus is on us to figure out a way to do it.”

Despite Niemi’s impressive showing during the Hawks’ drive to the Stanley Cup championship, Zito said he’d rather not leave it up to an arbitrator to make sure his client gets a nice raise from his salary of $827,000 last season.

What Zito didn’t reveal is what Niemi is looking for.

Would the Finnish goalie rather get paid big money over the short term so he can shoot for a whopper of a deal later? Perhaps, instead of a high annual salary, he might prefer the security that comes with a longer-term, more cap-friendly contract? It’s quite possible that Zito could point to Jaroslav Halak as a parallel for Niemi; after all, they both emerged in the playoffs after fighting for a starting job during the regular season.

Another thing to remember is that, at 26, Niemi is one year away from unrestricted free agency. Might he roll the dice with a one-year deal with Chicago, hoping to land a monster deal next summer after proving that he’s not a fluke in 2010-11?

It’s a fascinating situation, for sure. Stay tuned, hockey fans (and salary cap dorks).

(H/T to Kukla’s Korner.)

Scroll Down For:

    Struggling Sabre Tyler Ennis out with upper-body injury

    Tyler Ennis, James Wisniewski
    Leave a comment

    Tyler Ennis can probably relate with the Buffalo Sabres’ opponent on Wednesday, as he’s struggling almost as much as the Nashville Predators.

    Perhaps some of that has to do with health?

    Whether that’s the case or not, Ennis is out for the Sabres tonight, as the team announced that he’s dealing with an upper-body injury.

    The Buffalo News discussed Ennis’ struggles in this article.

    “I’d say he’s pressing too much. You can’t make those plays in every situation and in every point you touch the puck,” Dan Bylsma said to the Buffalo News. “ … He’s just got to simplify his game. He is a special player who can make those plays, but he can’t be trying to do it every time he touches the puck.”

    He’ll need to wait a while to start getting things together, anyway.

    WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry (Flyers-Islanders; Blackhawks-Sharks)

    Ryan White, Matt Martin
    Leave a comment

    You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.

    Here are the handy links for the two contests.

    First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.


    After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.


    Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

    1 Comment

    The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

    Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

    “Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

    Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

    Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

    Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

    Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

    Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

    Ryan Johansen
    Leave a comment

    One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

    You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

    — Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

    — GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

    — Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

    So there’s that. What’s next?

    At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

    Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

    So, consider the similarities now:

    — Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

    — Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

    — Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

    — Both are Overhardt guys.

    — The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

    — Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

    For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

    And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

    And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.