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.)

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    Ducks light up Cam Talbot to defeat Oilers

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    Chris Wagner‘s first career playoff goal was the turning point in Game 3 for the Anaheim Ducks, as they defeated the Edmonton Oilers 6-3 to get their first win of this series.

    Connor McDavid had just scored (another) spectacular goal, this one to get the Oilers back on even terms at three goals apiece after they fell behind 3-0 in the opening period. The orange crush at Rogers Place was, naturally, in a frenzy at the time.

    The tide of this game had suddenly turned in favor of the home team, which had a 2-0 series lead.

    As suddenly as the Oilers had come back to tie the game, the Ducks regained the lead. Wagner fired the puck from the side boards toward Cam Talbot, who misplayed the puck off his right arm and into the net.

    That was only one part of a difficult night for Talbot, who allowed six goals on 28 shots. Anaheim had built up a three-goal lead less than 12 minutes in and needed only six shots to do so.

    Talk about a quick turn of events. Talbot was sensational in Game 2, backstopping the Oilers to another road win with a 39-save performance.Edmonton’s troubles started early in Game 3. Rickard Rakell scored just 25 seconds in on a breakaway and the Ducks were rolling from there.

    Wagner’s goal came just 48 seconds after McDavid tied the game. Jakob Silfverberg and Ryan Kesler increased the Anaheim lead in the third period.

    This time, there was no inspired comeback from the Oilers.

    While the Ducks found their scoring touch, they also received a 24-save performance from John Gibson. He was at his best in the second period, making a couple of key saves, including a great shoulder stop off a three-on-one rush.

    Game 4 goes Wednesday in Edmonton.

    Video: Connor McDavid puts on a show with this spectacular goal

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    Connor McDavid has his first goal of this series against the Anaheim Ducks — and it was a beauty.

    (Another spectacular McDavid goal? Get out!)

    With one assist so far in this series, McDavid brought the crowd in Edmonton to its feet with a quick stop and cut back to his left against Sami Vatanen, followed immediately with a perfect wrist shot top corner on John Gibson.

    “McWow!” is right.

    The Oilers fell behind 3-0 in the first period, but that goal from McDavid tied the game before the midway point of the second period.

    The celebration didn’t last long.

    Just 48 seconds later, Chris Wagner‘s shot from the side boards, a rather harmless looking attempt, was misplayed by Cam Talbot to put Anaheim back in front by a score of 4-3. That’s the score heading into the third period.

    ‘We weren’t even competitive’ — Blues coach hints at lineup changes for Game 4

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    Lineup adjustments can be a common occurrence in the playoffs. Based on his comments Sunday, St. Louis Blues coach Mike Yeo is seriously looking to make some changes for Game 4.

    The Blues trail the Nashville Predators 2-1 in the series, following a disappointing 3-1 loss on Sunday.

    Nashville dominated puck possession for long stretches, putting this one away on a goal from Roman Josi after just such a shift — caused by a Blues turnover in the defensive end — late in the third period.

    Yeo praised the Predators for the way they checked the Blues, but was straight to the point with his assessment of his team’s performance.

    “I mean, we scored one goal tonight. Fact of the matter is, for a large part of the game, we weren’t even competitive,” he told reporters.

    “We obviously have to be way better. We have to make a couple of changes, personnel-wise, for the next game and look at the tape and see what we can do … a little bit better than tonight because it wasn’t good enough.”

    Despite getting outplayed, the Blues were, for much of the second half of the game, one shot away from the tying goal. But hopes of a possible comeback were nullified after a shift of about 1:10 of furious Nashville possession in the offensive zone capped off by the Josi blast.

    Blues defensemen Joel Edmundson and Colton Parayko — who both had a miserable day in terms of puck possession — had been stuck on the ice for almost two minutes before Josi scored, per NHL.com.

    That’s one glaring example.

    “The way we played in our [defensive zone] matched the way that we executed, matched the way that we competed all over the ice,” said Yeo.

    “We were waiting to see what they were going to do. We were reacting to that. So we’ve got to initiate much better.”

    No mic? No problem: Oilers fans sing American, Canadian national anthems

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    There was apparently an issue with a microphone used for the national anthems prior to Game 3 between the Ducks and Oilers in Edmonton.

    Canadian country music star Brett Kissel was supposed to perform the anthems, however, as he stepped up to the mic, he soon discovered that there seemed to be a malfunction.

    With some quick encouragement from Kissel, fans at Rogers Place stole the show with stirring renditions of both the American and Canadian national anthems.

    Here is the Star Spangled Banner:

    Here is O Canada: