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Decision day for Hawks on Niemi

by Dan Rosen
The Chicago Blackhawks will decide Monday whether to sign goalie Antti Niemi or walk away from his arbitration award, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent.

An arbitrator ruled on Saturday that if Chicago wanted Niemi back it would have to be under a one-year contract worth $2.75 million, Niemi's agent, Bill Zito, confirmed to's Brian Hedger. Per the terms in the collective bargaining agreement, the Blackhawks then had 48 hours to decide what it was going to do.

Chicago, which is up against the $59.4 million salary cap without Niemi signed, has three options: It could sign Niemi and keep him for the season; let Niemi become an unrestricted free agent; sign him and then look to trade him.

There is already one possible sign that the Hawks will let Niemi walk. According to a report from WGN-TV in Chicago Sunday night, the Hawks have signed veteran goalie Marty Turco to a one-year contract worth $1.75 million. No other news outlets, both local and national, could confirm the report and some were calling it inaccurate.

The team has made no official announcements regarding its goaltending situation as of yet.

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said at the Blackhawks annual fan convention over the weekend that it's time to give Corey Crawford his chance. Crawford has spent the past four years playing in the AHL and has appeared in only eight games with the Blackhawks since he was drafted in the second round of the 2003 Entry Draft.

No matter what the Hawks decide Monday, their work is not done yet. There is still the matter of Cristobal Huet and his $5.625 million cap hit. The Blackhawks have the option of sending Huet to the minor leagues, which would take his cap hit off the books.

Bowman said on a conference call Friday that he has yet to dive into the Huet situation because he was trying to resolve the Niemi situation first.

Meanwhile, Niemi is in Finland waiting to find out his fate and also waiting for the Stanley Cup to arrive. His day with the Cup is scheduled for Aug. 10-11.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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