What are Chicago's goaltending options if they don't keep Antti Niemi?

Thumbnail image for finiemi.jpgWhile the Blackhawks continue to try and work out a contract agreement with goaltender Antti Niemi before his arbitration hearing on July 29th, it’s not the worst idea in the world for Blackhawks fans to start taking a look around elsewhere for potential new goaltenders. After all, if Niemi does go to arbitration and lands anywhere between $2.5 to $3 million the Hawks will have their hands tied one way or the other as far as the roster goes.

Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago got curious about things himself and ran down a list of potential candidates to either back up Cristobal Huet or challenge him straight up for the starting job. This list may actually hurt the feelings of Blackhawks fans, or provide some much-needed summertime levity.

Corey Crawford: He probably remains the best and most likely option. At $800,000, his cap hit is on par with Niemi’s of a year ago, and it might simply be his turn.

If this turned out to be Chicago’s move, then life with Huet is how things would go in Chicago whether fans liked it or not. Crawford’s numbers with AHL Rockford last year: 42 games, 2.67 goals against average, .909 save percentage. Crawford played in just one NHL game last year for the Blackhawks giving up three goals in a losing effort.

Marty Turco: He already turned down $2 million a year for three years from Philadelphia, so he might be pricing himself out of the running — unless he changes his mind in order to play for a Cup winning team.

The issue here with Turco is how much of a discount would he take to make it allowable for him to play in Chicago. Money will be tight for the Blackhawks no matter what and while he’d provide for a fascinating season-long drama the questions about his consistency would linger all year long. While we’re not talking about a Cristobal Huet-level of goalie anxiety for the team, Turco has certainly had his fair share of ups and downs in Dallas the last few seasons.

Jose Theodore: I guess a 30-7 record doesn’t get you very far anymore. Not when the GAA is 2.81 and the team flames out in the playoffs. And he had just one shutout for the President Trophy-winning Washington Capitals.

We all forgot about Jose being available, haven’t we? As Rogers notes, his numbers aren’t exactly awe-inspiring especially when you think of Chicago fans wanting to run Huet out of town and he sported a GAA of 2.50. With Chicago in a semi-rebuild mode (more like repair) and not knowing how, exactly, the defense will play out opting for Theodore at a vastly reduced pay may not be the greatest option.

Vesa Toskala: You would have to look past an awful 2009-10 season. He’s won more games than he’s lost every year he’s been in the league — until this past season. Of course, playing for Toronto wasn’t the easiest task for any goaltender.

Somehow, this suggestion isn’t a joke. It’s awfully hard to look past how poorly Toskala played in Toronto and for Calgary as well. Soft goals, poor positioning and zero confidence all conspired to make Vesa Toskala the rightful butt of jokes from all across Canada. Chicago fans can start hammering on the panic button if Toskala ends up wearing the Indian next season.

On the fun side of things, a tandem of Huet and Toskala could be referred to as the “Gas Tanker” with how many fires they’ll start that the Chicago offense will have to find a way to put out by bailing them out. Lovers of “firewagon hockey” are huge proponents of this move.

Ray Emery: He might be better suited as a cheap option as a back-up to Crawford, if he can stay healthy. Emery is coming off of hip surgery and only once played in more than 40 games in a season.

Not only did Emery have hip surgery, but he was diagnosed with avascular necrosis, a condition that weakens the bones. Considering the ailment is affecting his hips, it’d make for a remarkable story if Emery was able to continue playing hockey at an elite level. That said, Emery’s inconsistency when he is able to play might wear very thin on coach Joel Quenneville.

Clearly, getting things right with Antti Niemi is Chicago’s priority but given the constraints the team has with their finances there’s another lesson in the hard realities of the current NHL on the way to Blackhawks fans coming soon for Blackhawks fans one way or another. How this saga plays out should prove fascinating.

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    Kings outlast Canucks in first edition of NHL China Games

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    The Los Angeles Kings came away with a 5-2 preseason win over the Vancouver Canucks in the first of the 2017 NHL China Games. This contest took place in lovely Shanghai.

    Adrian Kempe got the ball rolling for Kings, as he scored the first goal of the game on the power play to make it 1-0 for his team (top).

    Kings forward Tanner Pearson scored a great shorthanded breakaway goal to extend Los Angeles’ lead to 2-0 (check out the Pearson goal by clicking the video below).

    The shorthanded goal against wasn’t the only issue the Canucks power play had in this game. Vancouver managed to score once on the man-advantage, but they finished the game 1-for-14 in that department (yes, it’s only a preseason game).

    with Vancouver trailing 3-0 in the second period, Sven Baertschi finally got them on the board to cut the Kings lead to 3-1.

    Markus Granlund made it 3-2 in the third period, but that’s as close as the Canucks would come to tying the score.

    Pearson extended Los Angeles’ lead to 4-2 before Jeff Carter finished off the game with an empty-net goal.

    These two teams will meet again in Beijing on Saturday at 3:30 a.m. ET.

    Krug to be re-evaluated in three weeks after taking puck to jaw

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    Torey Krug‘s 2017 training camp is officially over.

    The Bruins defenseman suffered a non-displaced fracture in his jaw after taking a puck to the face in Tuesday’s preseason game against the Red Wings.

    General Manager Don Sweeney expects Krug to be re-evaluated in three weeks, which means he could miss Boston’s regular-season opener against Nashville on Oct. 5.

    Losing Krug for any regular season games would be huge for the Bruins, as he had eight goals and 51 points in 81 games last season.

    In other injury news, the Bruins also announced that forward Matt Beleskey (foot contusion) is day-to-day. He was hurt in Boston’s preseason opener against Montreal on Monday.

    Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (upper body) is also day-to-day. He was injured against the Red Wings, too.

    Caps’ Vrana hoping to earn spot with Ovechkin, Kuznetsov

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    It looks like the Washington Capitals are going to give Jakub Vrana the opportunity of a lifetime.

    Washington has given the young winger a chance to earn a spot on the right side of the top line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin.

    On Wednesday night, they got to put the chemistry to the test, as Vrana and the Caps played the Canadiens in Montreal.

    Vrana finished the game with a power play goal (an innocent shot that went off Canadiens defenseman Brandon Davidson and in the net). Kuznetsov and Ovechkin registered the assists on the goal and the Caps won 4-2.

    “We played fast today,” Vrana said, per the Washington Post. “We had some passes today, some chances. It’s always a good sign when you have chances. … You’re going to be confident when you play with guys like this. You’re just going to be confident on the ice with the puck. Just play fast and build some chemistry there.”

    The 21-year-old got his first taste of real NHL action last season, but the production simply wasn’t there (three goals and three assists in 21 games). But the 13th overall pick in the 2014 draft did put up solid numbers in the AHL, as he had 36 points in 49 games last year and 34 points in 36 games with the Hershey Bears two years ago.

    “He gets to space,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “He gets on the puck because he moves his legs and his speed is noticeable. Kuzy can get him the puck, and getting down ice, he can put some pressure to create a forecheck, too. He worked hard today, and I think we keep putting him with top players, because we think he’s going to be a top player.”

    WATCH LIVE: Canucks vs. Kings from Shanghai, China

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    The Vancouver Canucks and L.A. Kings will make history on Thursday.

    The two teams will face each other in an exhibition series in China, marking the first time NHL teams will play preseason games in that country. The two-game set gets underway with Thursday’s contest from the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai.

    Set your alarms, wake up early (especially if you’re on the west coast!), put on a pot of coffee and catch the game on NBCSN (7:30 a.m. ET) or online with the live stream.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

    Here are some links to check out for today’s game:

    NHL hopes to make inroads in China with exhibition games

    It was a little on the foggy side for Canucks practice in Shanghai

    Canucks-Kings exhibition series in China highlights preseason schedule

    NHL preseason games in China are ‘the biggest deal’ for local fans

    NHL looks to China to ‘expand the sport’