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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    Dahlin headlines Sweden’s roster for World Junior Summer Showcase

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    Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, potentially the NHL’s first overall draft pick in 2018, will suit up for Sweden at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan.

    Dahlin, who doesn’t turn 18 until April, has wowed scouts with his skating and puck-moving ability. At the 2017 World Juniors, he participated as a 16-year-old, garnering tantalizing reviews in the process.

    Top-10 picks in the 2017 draft, Elias Pettersson (5th, Vancouver Canucks) and Lias Andersson (7th, New York Rangers), will also be in Plymouth representing Sweden.

    Click here for Sweden’s and Finland’s Summer Showcase rosters. The tournament runs from July 29 – Aug. 5 and also features players from the United States and Canada.

    Among the draft-eligible Finns to watch is 17-year-old forward Jesse Ylonen, who could be a late first-rounder in 2018.

    Related: USA Hockey invites 42 players to World Junior Summer Showcase

    All of a sudden, hope for hockey in Houston

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    Leslie Alexander’s decision to sell the NBA’s Rockets has revived hope for a hockey team in Houston.

    That’s because Alexander is arguably the biggest reason that Houston doesn’t already have a team. The 72-year-old billionaire controls Toyota Center, where the Rockets play. Without getting into all the details, he’s essentially been the only one who could bring an NHL franchise to the city.

    From the Houston Press:

    But Alexander selling the Rockets (and the lease that goes with it), opens up an NHL-ready hockey arena in Houston. And that’s something that Seattle, which the NHL seemed to favor, can’t offer, and unlike Quebec City, Houston offers up a huge media market with many, many large corporations around to buy up luxury seats.

    Houston is certainly a big city. In fact, only four metro areas in the United States — New York, L.A., Chicago and Dallas — have higher populations.

    And Houston is growing fast.

    Jeremy Jacobs, the influential owner of the Boston Bruins, has not hidden his desire to put an NHL team in Toyota Center. Back in 2015, he told ESPN.com, “I would love to see one in Houston, but we can’t get into that building.”

    Perhaps soon the NHL won’t have that impediment.

    Predators hire new assistant coach in wake of Housley departure

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    The Nashville Predators have hired Dan Muse as an assistant coach.

    Muse, who spent the last two years as head coach of the USHL’s Chicago Steel, will be in charge of the Preds’ forwards as well as the penalty kill, while associate head coach Kevin McCarthy  — in the wake of Phil Housley’s departure — will now have responsibility for the defense and the power play.

    Muse led the Steel to a championship in May. He also won an NCAA title in 2013 as an assistant coach for Yale.

    “Dan comes to us as a successful young coach that brings great energy and passion to the game,” said Preds head coach Peter Laviolette in a statement. “He has worked his way up through the coaching ranks, first winning an NCAA title at Yale in 2013, and then taking a Chicago team that had missed the playoffs eight straight seasons and turned them into the Clark Cup champions in just two seasons. We are excited to welcome him to the organization and look forward to his contributions to the coaching staff.”

    Senators avoid arbitration with Ryan Dzingel

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    The Ottawa Senators have narrowly avoided arbitration with Ryan Dzingel.

    Per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Dzingel has signed a two-year deal with a cap hit of $1.8 million.

    Dzingel’s hearing was scheduled for today. Last season, the 25-year-old forward had 14 goals and 18 assists in 81 games.

    Earlier this week, the Sens also avoided arbitration with Jean-Gabriel Pageau, though that case didn’t go down to the wire like Dzingel’s did.

    Pageau and Dzingel were the only Sens with arbitration hearings scheduled.

    Related: Sens want to avoid arbitration with Dzingel