The Blackhawks decided to let Stanley Cup winning goalie Antti Niemi leave as an unrestricted free agent. Chicago is still one of the favorites for next year’s Stanley Cup at the online bookmaker but the loss of their top goalie does not inspire much confidence with bettors.
Bookmaker odds favor the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins over the Blackhawks to win next season’s Stanley Cup. With the loss of Niemi, the odds on Chicago could fall further. Niemi was awarded $2.75 in arbitration and the Blackhawks had three choices. They could pay Niemi, trade him or let him become an unrestricted free agent. They chose to let him go. It is a puzzling move from the Stanley Cup champs. The team did sign goaltender Marty Turco who had been with Dallas but giving up a young star in Niemi and going with an aging veteran in Turco is shocking.
Niemi was 26-7 with a 2.20 goals against average last season. Turco was 22-20 with a 2.70 goals against average for Dallas last season as bookmaker stats indicated. The Hawks decided to sign Turco to a one-year deal worth $1.75 million. Chicago saves one million in contract costs but loses their top goalie. Niemi was 16-6 during the playoffs with a 2.63 GAA and .912 save percentage.
The Blackhawks do have salary cap concerns but they could have paid the extra million to sign Niemi. For some unknown reason they chose to go with Turco who has been a division rival and an up and down goalie throughout his career. Turco was 262-154-26 with Dallas. The Stars traded for Kari Lehtonen in February which meant they had no real need for Turco.
Chicago may not even go with Turco as their top goalie. Chicago has Corey Crawford in the minor leagues and many people at the online sportsbook believe he can take over the top spot. He has played the last four seasons for Chicago’s AHL team. The Blackhawks still have Cristobal Huet under contract but they may decide to send him down to avoid the salary cap hit.