On July 29th Antti Niemi will have his arbitration hearing to determine his salary for the 2010-11 NHL season. That is, of course, if the Blackhawks and Niemi don’t come to terms on a deal before then. And it would make a lot of sense for all parties involved to try to work out a deal before then due to the offer sheet Niklas Hjalmarsson received from the San Jose Sharks on July 9th.
The Blackhawks have until July 14th, this Friday, to match the Hjalmarsson offer sheet or they will receive a 1st and a 3rd round draft pick and lose the talented young defenseman. The fact that the ‘Hawks have to make a decision on Hjalmarsson before the arbitration hearing may influnce ‘Hawks General Manger Stan Bowman to be more aggresive with Niemi’s contract talks. If Niemi and the ‘Hawks go to arbitration Niemi will be awarded a one year contract after which he would become an unrestricted free agent. It would make sense for the ‘Hawks to wait a year to sign Niemi to a long term contract, wanting to see how he performs in a full 82 game schedule. [photogallerylink id=16844 align=left]Niemi could be in line to make around $3.5 million next year based on the contract the Jaroslv Halak just signed with the St. Louis Blues. Both Niemi and Halak had comparable regular season and post season numbers with Niemi posting a 2.25 regular season Goals Against Average (GAA) to Halak’s 2.40. While in the post season Niemi’s GAA reached 2.63 and Halak’s was 2.55. The main difference obviusly being Niemi’s 16 wins giving the ‘Hawks the Stanley Cup Championship. This will prove to be another important week for Bowman and the Blackhawks as they prepare to defend the Stanley Cup title and keep as many players in Chicago as possible.