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.

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    Video: Flyers’ Read (upper-body injury) will not return versus Predators

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    Philadelphia Flyers forward Matt Read is done for the night with an upper-body injury, the team announced.

    Read, who only played three shifts today, was hit into the net by Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg during the first period. Flyers GM Ron Hextall announced the veteran forward suffered an upper-body injury.

    There was no call on the play.

    In 26 games this season, Read has six goals and 10 points.

    Video: Radulov goes top shelf in the shootout and it’s pretty sweet

    MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 08:  Alexander Radulov #47 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on during the warmup prior to the NHL game against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on November 8, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Boston Bruins 3-2.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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    Alexander Radulov has been a pretty good acquisition for the Montreal Canadiens, and he continued to prove that Sunday against the L.A. Kings.

    Radulov scored in the shootout against the Kings, helping the Canadiens to a 5-4 victory. He also scored in the second period and had two assists for a three-point night. Not bad.

    But his shootout goal was sweet. Just made it look easy, as he went to the backhand, top shelf on Peter Budaj.

    With reported tension between coach Michel Therrien and Max Pacioretty, the Habs captain scored twice and had an assist. Another three-point night.

    So, the Habs got offensive contributions from their best players.

    That said, one of their best players, Alex Galchenyuk left the game late in the third period after a collision with Anze Kopitar away from the puck.

    Galchenyuk didn’t return for the overtime. In 25 games, he has nine goals and 23 points, emerging as the No. 1 center in Montreal when the season began.

    The Toews injury isn’t getting better, so Chicago’s captain will sit versus Jets

    NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 28:  Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on October 28, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    The Blackhawks face the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, and they’ll do so without captain Jonathan Toews.

    Toews will miss a fifth straight game because of a reported back injury.

    On Sunday, per CSN Chicago, coach Joel Quenneville provided an update, saying the Blackhawks forward will now be kept off the ice for the next few days because the injury essentially isn’t getting any better.

    The Blackhawks are coming off a 3-1 road loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, and they’re going through a difficult time with injuries to key players. Not only is Toews out, but goalie Corey Crawford has been sidelined for two to three weeks after undergoing an appendectomy.

    Scott Darling will start in net tonight for Chicago, which has a three-point lead in the Central Division.

    The Jets will be without their top point producer Mark Scheifele for a second straight game with a lower-body injury, per NHL.com.

    Buffalo’s depth on defense is dwindling

    BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 18:  Josh Gorges #4 of the Buffalo Sabres skates against the Boston Bruins at First Niagara Center on October 18, 2014 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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    The Buffalo Sabres aren’t known for their depth on defense, so when they have to deal with injuries at that position, things can get complicated.

    Well…I guess things are about to get complicated.

    On Sunday, the Sabres announced that Josh Gorges (pictured) will miss “weeks” because of a non-displaced fracture in his foot. The injury occurred after he blocked a shot in Thursday’s game against the Rangers.

    Besides Gorges, Buffalo is also without Zach Bogosian and Dmitry Kulikov.

    Bogosian has been out since Nov. 3 with sprained ligaments in his knee, and he’s still 10-to-14 days away from getting back into the lineup.

    The news is a little better for Kulikov, who returned to practice on Sunday. He’s missed 11 games because of a back injury he suffered in the preseason. He tried playing through it, but obviously he was still in some discomfort.

    “Kulikov has now skated two days with some physicality and now been skating for seven days,” coach Dan Bylsma said, per the Buffalo News. “Hopefully, that means we’ll see him in practice soon – in the next week hopefully.”

    Now, some of the replacements for these guys are starting to get hurt.

    Taylor Fedun missed Sunday’s practice and it’s unclear if he’ll be able to play against the Capitals on Monday night. If he can’t go, Buffalo will need to call someone up from the minors.

    Things got so wacky last week that the Sabres called up Brendan Guhle from junior on an emergency basis. By rule, he can stay on the roster as long as he keeps playing. Once he stops playing, the emergency tag is removed and he has to go back to his junior team.

    Guhle, Rasmus Ristolainen, Jake McCabe, Cody Franson and Justin Falk are the healthy defensemen on the roster right now.