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Blackhawks land G Turco, say so long to G Niemi @NHLdotcom

CHICAGO (AP) -The Chicago Blackhawks agreed to a one-year deal with Marty Turco on Monday, settling on a veteran goaltender to replace Stanley Cup hero Antti Niemi.

General manager Stan Bowman said the team expects "immediate" contributions from the 34-year-old Turco, played nine seasons with Dallas. He is a three-time All Star.

Terms were not disclosed.

The 26-year-old Niemi helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup this past season after earning $826,875 as a rookie. He was awarded a $2.75 million salary for next season by an arbitrator last week, putting the Blackhawks in a tough spot.

Bowman declined to say whether the team could have squeezed Niemi's award under the NHL's salary cap, set at $59.4 million next season.

"The salary cap has been talked about too much," Bowman said.

Bowman said he made several attempts to sign Niemi to a multiyear contract before the goalie's case went to arbitration.

"We exhausted all of our options to make this work," Bowman said. "This is the direction that made the most sense. You have to have flexibility within your roster and this was the best way to defend the Cup."

Niemi, a Finn who signed with the Blackhawks in May 2008, becomes an unrestricted free agent. He played all but one period of the Blackhawks postseason run to the championship, going 16-6 with a 2.63 goals-against average, .910 save percentage and two shutouts.

Niemi is the eighth player to leave the Blackhawks since the team won its first Stanley Cup in 49 years, joining Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Adam Burish, Colin Fraser and Kris Versteeg.

Bowman said he had been eyeing Turco for some time and trying to coordinate the timing of the signing so another NHL team wouldn't take him.

"We talked it over and Marty is the guy we certainly had interest in for a long time here," Bowman said via conference call. "We're fortunate that he had some patience with us, which speaks to the kind of guy he is and that he wants to be here.

"We've been working on parallel paths for a while."

In his NHL career, Turco is 262-154-63 in 509 regular-season games with a 2.31 goals-against average and 40 shutouts. Last season, he went 22-20-11 with a 2.72 GAA, .913 save percentage and four shutouts.

The 5-foot-11 native of Sault Ste-Marie, Ontario, who turns 35 this month, is 21-26 with a 2.17 goals-against average in 47 playoffs games.

The Stars, however, have missed the postseason for two straight years.

"I haven't lost my confidence, although the last few years have been tough mentally because we haven't made the playoffs," Turco said. "Part of the reason for going there (Chicago) is now you're on a team that has a chance to win every night and won a Stanley Cup last season."

Turco added that he has "never been better physically" and that it was a "dream come true" to play for an Original Six NHL team that once had Tony Esposito, another Sault Ste-Marie native, in net.

"I had offers from other teams and multiyear deals, but I had a chance to be a part of this great organization," Turco said. "Waiting, especially looking at it from today, doesn't seem that difficult."

With the addition of Turco, Bowman said his team's roster is nearly set for 2010-11.

"We need to add a defenseman, but we're not going to be making wholesale changes at this point," he said. "We're satisfied with what we have."

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