Sharp staying doesn't mean Niemi out

Sharp staying doesn't mean Niemi out

Posted by TimS on Tue, 07/20/2010 - 01:40
Simply because Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said on Monday that Patrick Sharp wouldn't be traded, it doesn't mean goalie Antti Niemi is as good as gone. Bowman continues to negotiate with Niemi's agent, Bill Zito, on a contract for the restricted free agent who is scheduled to go to arbitration on July 29. It's believed both said are trying to come up with a creative solution that will keep Niemi in Chicago and allow the Hawks to stay under the salary cap. However, it still might come down to the arbitration hearing and what Niemi gets awarded. If the money is too much, the Hawks can walk away from the ruling and Niemi becomes an unrestricted free agent, likely to be pursued in that event by a number of teams including San Jose and Washington. Bowman's comment about Sharp on Monday at the premier for the Hawks' Stanley Cup DVD was interesting. "He's a big part of this," Bowman said. "He means a lot to us on the ice and off the ice." On the ice and off the ice tells me the Hawks don't think they can part with another popular player and be able to sell it to their fans as something that was necessary, such as with Dustin Byfuglien and Kris Versteeg. Would the outcry be greater if it were Sharp leaving than Niemi? Absolutely. What would the Hawks do for a goalie if Niemi cannot be signed? Veterans Marty Turco and Jose Theodore remain available as free agents, and their price is not going up. It's difficult to imagine the Hawks turning the No. 1 job over to Corey Crawford. But let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Bowman still has time to make it work with Niemi.
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