ON the ice, I've talked myself into Turco being no worse than a push, a lateral move. And he's POSSIBLY even an upgrade because of the improvement he gets with the Chicago defense in front of him (his career save pct is right in line with this idea), as well as his ability to create odd man rushes and breakaways.
The thing that intrigues me most is the business aspect, and just how badly Niemi and his agent seem to have messed this up, and far overplayed their hand. They HAD to have seen this scenario playing out from the moment they filed for arbitration. Maybe Niemi truly wanted to stay with Chicago, but his camp seems to have taken every action to ensure it would not happen.
It is a given that Chicago is severely constrained by the cap, and absolutely could NOT pay Niemi more than, say, somewhere around $2 mil per. Also we all knew full well that Marty Turco was waiting in the wings at around that same price, or far less as it turns out.
Seemingly disregarding this, Niemi's camp naively went forward in filing for arbitration, and somehow requested $4 mil. They knew that the benchmark comparison is the $2.75 mil that Halak just got from StL, and had to know that amount would almost certainly mean Chicago has to let him walk. Of course, $2.75mil is exactly what Niemi was awarded.
So in this situation, not only MUST the Hawks let Niemi go (the only alternative is to further dismantle the core and move other more valuable players like Sharpie, Bolland, or Campbell), but as far as I can tell, there is a VERY limited market for Niemi. Most teams are either set at goal or have other significantly cheaper options (Jose Theodore being one). Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like Niemi will be hard pressed to find that same $2.75 mil from another team.
If what Stan Bowman says is true, and Niemi was offered, and turned down, a longer term deal before the arbitration deadline (something around 4-years, $8 mil) then this is entirely Niemi's camp's fault for being so shortsighted. Again, with the hard cap, it seems unlikely that other teams are prepared to offer him even that much.
Who knows though, maybe Niemi's camp had discussions with other teams this entire time, and they know that some team (San Jose?) will throw a bigger offer his way. But regardless of if he truly wanted to stay in Chicago, wasn't the best business decistion option just taking a 3 or 4 year deal at around $2 mil per year? Or else taking a 1-year deal for $2 mil and becoming an unrestricted free agent NEXT summer?
So it looks like we can expect Niemi's numbers to take a step back next season, commensurate with the downgrade of his new team's defense. And I'm especially curious to see what kind of deal he gets from another team now.
Who knows, perhaps my assumptions are completely inaccurate, and Team X is ready to throw $12 mil and 4 years at himl... we shall see.
Thus, if Niemi truly wanted to stay AND receive a reasonable raise, they should have either
Proposed/accepted a 2 to 4 year deal, at around $2 mil per season, or
- Proposed/accepted a 1 year deal, at around $2 mil per season, or
Came in with a lower arbitration number, somewhere around $2.8 or $3 mil, in order to give themselves a real chance of fitting into the 'Hawks cap situation.
As it were, that $4 mil abritration number may have simply been posturing, in order to justify a higher asking price for Niemi for when he hit the open market, and the unrestricted free agency they knew was coming...