Niemi's arbitration split-decision is better than expected news for Blackhawks

anttiniemi5.jpgWhile the Chicago Blackhawks have to be somewhat happy with how goaltender Antti Niemi’s arbitration case turned out today, rewarding him $2.75 million, finding out about where each side was hoping to end up in the grand scheme of things salary-wise is a curious matter. Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago checks in to tell us that the Blackhawks were looking for a cap-saving amount while Antti Niemi was hoping to be paid like a Stanley Cup-winning goalie.

Sources familiar with the hearing say the Chicago Blackhawks gave the arbitrator a figure of only $1.5 million while Niemi’s camp countered with $4 million. The arbiter basically split the difference by awarding Niemi $2.75 million for the upcoming season.

It means the Hawks were hoping for and most likely planning to keep Niemi if the arbitrator came in with a figure closer to their $1.5 million. At $2.75 million, the Hawks can still work Niemi on to their roster but only if other salaries are shed.

Clearly the Hawks’ intent was to keep the price reasonable and retain Antti Niemi so they don’t have to do any further roster shuffling. While I doubt Niemi’s intent was to put the Blackhawks over a barrel with what he wanted, you can’t really blame a guy going for the gusto like that with the demand.

The Blackhawks may have been setting their salary request to be based around Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask who makes $1.25 million. One player that you could say is a nearly identical contemporary of Antti Niemi is Jaroslav Halak and the Blues gave him a four-year deal worth $3.75 million a year. It’s fascinating to see that the goalie who helped his team win the Stanley Cup scores a contract worth a million dollars less. Perhaps the Blackhawks will send a fruit basket to the arbitrator for that gift or just be thankful they didn’t end up getting the arbitrator in Clarke MacArthur’s case.

As for what the Blackhawks could do to stay under the cap, Blackhawks blog Hockee Night toyed around with the Cap Geek calculator and came up with a cap-fitting starting roster of 20 players. If that works out, Chicago will have to start investing in lucky charms and voodoo to make sure the team stays healthy all year long.

It’s interesting to note that the arbitrator in Niemi’s case was also the same one who handled Blake Wheeler’s arbitration as well and both of them got reasonable, team-friendly deals. It’s also worth noting that both the Bruins and Blackhawks were looking at possibly having to make major roster moves if either of those cases fell more in favor of what the players wanted. And you wonder why we have conspiracy theorists in the NHL, you see things like this and you can’t help but wonder if these things aren’t exactly a coincidence. As it is, the arbitrator split the difference between the demands and that shouldn’t be too alarming but we all know how these things go, let’s just hope the appropriate parties have enough tinfoil for their hats.

The Blackhawks have until Monday to decide if they’ll accept Niemi’s decision. One way or the other, a roster move of some variety will be made to accommodate any action the Hawks take. The Great Chicago Fire Sale of 2010 isn’t quite over yet.

Scroll Down For:

    There’s another Radulov NHL comeback rumor making the rounds

    Leave a comment

    It’s been roughly six months since the last one so yeah, time for an Alex Radulov update.

    Radulov, who’s spent the last four seasons playing for KHL outfit CSKA Moscow, has reportedly rejected the club’s contract extension offer and is ready to become a free agent, per Russian sports writer Slava Malamud.

    Sport-Express’ Igor Eronko also reported the Radulov news, tweeting the ex-Preds forward claimed “there’s nothing” regarding a new deal with CSKA, adding “I’m a free agent after this season.”

    Radulov, 29, is having another terrific offensive campaign in Russia, with 37 points in 32 games. This comes one year after he tore up the KHL in ’14-15, with 24 goals and 71 points in just 46 contests — one of the best offensive campaigns in league history.

    Rumors of Radulov returning to North America happen with the same frequency as Ilya Kovalchuk comeback rumblings, and always with the same outcome. But it’s hard to ignore them completely.


    Well, back in late May, Radulov’s agent told Championat Colorado had been in contact about an NHL return once Radulov’s deal with CSKA expired. Colorado, of course, is coached by Patrick Roy — the same guy that had great success coaching Radulov in the QMJHL.

    The two were, at one time, a dynamic force for the Quebec Remparts. During the 2005-06 campaign, Radulov scored a ridiculous 61 goals and 152 points in just 62 games, the nine more in four Memorial Cup contests, helping Roy capture his first and only championship as a head coach.

    Radulov, of course, hasn’t played in the NHL since an ill-fated reunion with Nashville in 2012, which included him getting suspended for a playoff game after breaking curfew.

    Malamud does note that, should Radulov try to return to the NHL, he’d do so as a unrestricted free agent — meaning he’s no longer Nashville property.

    Just a friendly reminder about Friday’s Bruins-Rangers Thanksgiving Showdown, on NBC

    Brad Marchand, Dan Boyle

    If you don’t spend tomorrow eye-gouging someone to save 50 bucks on an iRobot, why not spend it watching hockey?

    In case you didn’t know, tomorrow’s a pretty big day. Not only is there an Original Six matchup between the Bruins and Rangers — essentially kicking off the NHL on NBC national broadcast campaign — but there’s also an additional evening game, and a good one at that:

    Anaheim hosting the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, in a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Final.

    But before the Ducks and ‘Hawks do battle, the B’s and Rangers will get it on.

    This marks the second time in the last three years Boston and New York meet in the Thanksgiving Showdown. Back in ’13-14, the Bruins beat the Blueshirts 3-2, and this Farrelly Brothers commercial went to air:

    Tomorrow’s game promises to be a quality affair. The Bruins come in riding a four-game winning streak, which included Wednesday’s 3-2 OT win over Detroit. In that game, Jonas Gustavsson exacted a measure of revenge against his old Red Wings mates, stopping 32 of 34 shots for the win.

    The Rangers, meanwhile, come into Friday’s action looking for some redemption.

    Alain Vigneault’s club was waxed in Wednesday’s big test against top-seeded Montreal, dropping a 5-1 decision, at home, in front of the MSG faithful. The Rangers allowed five regulation goals for the first time this season, and saw All-Star netminder Henrik Lundqvist get yanked as a result.


    New York Rangers at Boston Bruins, 1 p.m. ET, NBC

    Chicago Blackhawks at Anaheim Ducks, 5 p.m. ET, NBCSN

    For online viewing information via NBC Sports’ Live Extra, click here.

    DeBoer: Sharks ‘need more’ after benching Hertl, Wingels

    Tomas Hertl, Tommy Wingels
    Leave a comment

    Peter DeBoer didn’t mice words Thursday in discussing Tommy Wingels‘ and Tomas Hertl‘s effort from last night’s loss to Chicago.

    “I don’t measure those guys on goals and assists but the intangibles of the game,” DeBoer said, per the Contra Costa Times. “Are you hard to play against? Are you playing in the other team’s end? Are you creating chances to score whether or not they go in?

    “That’s a by product. Those are the measurables I use with those guys and we need more.”

    Neither Wingels nor Hertl played a single shift in the third period of Wednesday’s game. The pair are both mired in lengthy scoring slumps — 14 games without a goal for Wingels, 19 for Hertl — but DeBoer carefully chose his words in explaining that offense, or a lack of it, wasn’t why the two got parked.

    Instead, it was about approach.

    DeBoer has been calculating in trying to establish an identity among his bottom-six forward group (Hertl and Wingels are third-liners). Prior to last night’s game, he brought in former Devil Dainius Zubrus — the pair spent time together in New Jersey — and that came¬†after the Sharks tookfull advantage of having their new AHL affiliate in San Jose.

    The club has constantly called up and sent down depth forwards to try and give DeBoer different looks.

    But it appears the group still remains a work in progress.


    Let’s look at the all-important U.S. Thanksgiving standings


    If you haven’t heard, U.S. Thanksgiving is pretty significant among NHL folk — and no, not just because everybody got the night off.

    (Well, most people got the night off. I’m here. But I’m Canadian and don’t mind working what we refer to as “Thursday, But With More Football.”)

    See, turkey day has major ramifications for the NHL playoffs. As CBC put it, conventional wisdom says American Thanksgiving is “a mark on the calendar where essentially the playoffs are decided.”

    To further illustrate that point, the Associated Press (courtesy STATS) ran a report last year showing that — since the 2005-06 season — teams in a playoff spot entering the holiday have gone on to make the Stanley Cup postseason 77.3 per cent of the time.

    So yeah. Late November standings are worth paying attention to.

    And a quick glance at those standings reveals that 16 clubs — Montreal, Ottawa, Boston, New York Rangers, Washington, Pittsburgh, New York Islanders, Detroit, Dallas, St. Louis, Nashville, Los Angeles, San Jose, Vancouver, Chicago and Minnesota — currently have, according to the above statistic, better than a 75 percent chance of making the dance.

    The other 14 clubs — Tampa Bay, New Jersey, Florida, Carolina, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Toronto, Columbus, Arizona, Winnipeg, Anaheim, Colorado, Calgary and Edmonton — have less than a 25 percent chance.

    Some thoughts:

    — The biggest surprises? Two conference finalists from last year’s playoffs on the outside looking in: Anaheim and Tampa Bay. The Ducks are 8-11-4 and with 20 points, five back of the final wild card spot in the West; the Bolts are 11-9-3, tied with the Wings and Isles on 25 points but on the outside looking in due to the tiebreaker.

    — To further illustrate how those two clubs have fallen: Last Thanksgiving, Tampa Bay was 15-6-2 with 32 points. Anaheim was 14-4-4 with 33 points. And yes, both were comfortably in playoff positions.

    — Three teams that missed from the Western Conference last year (Dallas, Los Angeles, San Jose) are in good shape to get back in. The same cannot be said for the Ducks and two other clubs that made it last year: Winnipeg (three points back of the wild card) and Calgary (eight back).

    — Other than Tampa Bay, the East looks remarkably similar to how last year finished. The Habs, Sens, Rangers, Isles, Pens, Red Wings and Caps were all postseason entrants.

    — Speaking of the Sens, they deserve mention. Ottawa was outside the playoff picture last Thanksgiving but, as has been well-documented, bucked convention by going on a crazy run down the stretch and pulling off the greatest comeback to the postseason in NHL history.

    — And it’s because of those Sens that I’m loathe to write anybody off. Of course, if I was going to write anybody off, it would be Carolina and Columbus and Buffalo and Edmonton.

    — If I had to pick one team currently holding a spot that I think will drop out, it’d be Vancouver.

    — If I had to pick a second, it’d be the Canucks.

    — Finally, it’s worth noting that, last year, only three of the 16 teams holding a playoff spot at Thanksgiving failed to make it: Boston, Toronto and Los Angeles.

    — In other words, 81 percent of the teams that were in on turkey day proceeded to qualify.