Hawk Talk: From negotiation to arbitration


Hawk Talk: From negotiation to arbitration

Wednesday, July 28, 2010
3:40 PM

By Chris Boden
It's a painful irony.

The Blackhawks are the most financially successful they've been in years, thanks to the product on the ice and the presentation all around it, yet they might not be able to afford to pay the goalie who helped lead them to their first Stanley Cup in half a century.

We'll have a better idea within a week, if not sooner, who'll be the man in the nets when the Blackhawks open defense. It has nothing to do with not wanting Antti Niemi back. Stan Bowman may even totally agree with what agent Bill Zito thinks his client is worth. And you can't deny an agent or a player for wanting what they feel they deserve, especially after turning to him, relying upon him, and getting those 16 wins in April, May and June.

At 8 a.m., Chicago time, Thursday morning in Toronto, each side will get 90 minutes in front of an arbitrator to state their case for Niemi's salary for the 2010-11 season. Niemi will be present. That's where things are always uncomfortable in any sport, even if a team loves the guy and wants him back - listening to why he should be paid lower than the salary he thinks he's worth, and may, in fact, deserve, based on what other goalies of similar age and skill are being paid. Bowman and Zito seem to be in agreement this is more about the money within the salary cap the Hawks don't have now, as opposed to what Niemi should probably earn.

Each side is already aware of the other's proposals and arguments, both through paperwork filed Tuesday, and simply through the numerous conversations Bowman and Zito have had in recent weeks to get creative in hopes of hammering something out. Unless they discover a solution they hadn't found previously and sign a deal prior to the start of the hearing, they'll walk away around lunchtime and wait. The arbitrator's choice between the two proposals comes within 48 hours, and the Hawks then have another 48 to determine whether to accept the ruling. If not, Niemi becomes an unrestricted free agent. If they accept despite a salary being too high for their liking, they have the right to trade Niemi, or keep him and either seek a trade for him, or trade other players to open the necessary salary cap space.

Everyone's asked over the past several weeks what kinds of numbers are being tossed around. I don't know and can only hazard a guess, which might not be as much brain surgery as most things are for me. What I tell them is, if I'm the Hawks, with the money I have and what I may still have to do with the roster, I'm trying to appeal to Niemi's camp the idea of making three times what he made last season as a rookie, which would put him in the 2.5 million salary range, and build on that in a multi-year deal, keeping the Cap "hit" in mind. I have a feeling they might be able to live with having to pay up to 3 million, but don't believe that number's even in play from either side for the hearing. I also tell them the reason I believe there hasn't been an agreement yet is the bar St. Louis set in their 4-year, 15 million contract with Jaroslav Halak. He was also a rookie, had similar regular season numbers as Niemi, and was as big a reason as any the Canadiens knocked off Washington and Pittsburgh before falling to Philadelphia. That's the neighborhood in which Niemi and Zito are likely shopping. And he didn't win the Cup.

So if it comes to the point where Niemi isn't a Blackhawk, where does he go, either by unrestricted free agency or a trade?

The landscape for most teams at that position is pretty settled by now. Do the Flyers think Niemi's that much better than Michael Leighton, whom they re-signed, but not necessarily as the starter? Especially with all those defensemen they have? Yet they have Cap challenges, too. I don't necessarily believe Columbus (which has a new coach) is ready to pull the plug on their guy who just got a Calder Trophy a year ago, Steve Mason. Edmonton has tons of Cap room, and I'm not sure where Nikolai Khabibulin is in his back surgery rehab now - not to mention the money they gave him a year ago for 18 games' worth. Is Ottawa comfortable enough with Elliott and Leclaire? And finally, one rumor making the rounds is that part of Doug Wilson's strategy in his offer sheet for Niklas Hjalmarsson was not just to find a replacement for Rob Blake (which they still must do), but perhaps make a play for Niemi should he go on the market. Wilson signed Antero Niittymaki for 3 million each of the next two seasons, but would he invest further at that position if believes the goalie who helped knock his Sharks out of the post-season is an upgrade?

Marty Turco and Jose Theodore are still on the market, and their prices obviously haven't been right for those clubs still out there seeking goalie help. They are dominoes that may well fall once Niemi's situation is cleared up. Corey Crawford is in the wings, and could he be ready to at least provide what Niemi did?

Those questions don't need to be answered yet. We'll find out soon whether they'll need to be.

Trevor van Riemsdyk leaves game early with injury

Trevor van Riemsdyk leaves game early with injury

COLUMBUS – Trevor van Riemsdyk finally had a healthy season in 2015-16. Now an injury could sideline him again.

Van Riemsdyk was injured late in the second period and did not return in the Blackhawks’ game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night. The defenseman, who was back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch the last three games, got tangled up with Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson as Anderson drove the net. Both went into the net, but van Riemsdyk’s right arm/shoulder went directly into the post.

Coach Joel Quenneville is expected to have an update following the game.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Van Riemsdyk suffered a fractured ankle in his final college season. He also missed most of the 2014-15 season – his first with the Blackhawks – with a fractured kneecap and later a wrist injury. He came back to play in the Stanley Cup final.

Brian Campbell, Trevor van Riemsdyk in vs. Columbus

Brian Campbell, Trevor van Riemsdyk in vs. Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Brian Campbell will be in the lineup after all, as will Trevor van Riemsdyk, when the Blackhawks face the Columbus Blue Jackets Friday night at Nationwide Arena.

Campbell appeared to be headed for healthy scratch status the past two days, when he was not among the top three defensive pairs at practice. But coach Joel Quenneville said Friday morning that Campbell is in. He would not say who was out.

“We want to get our defense in there. He’s been out too many games; we want him playing,” Quenneville said, referring to van Riemsdyk. “And we feel that there are seven D, they all deserve to play as well.”

The Blackhawks could go with seven defensemen. But considering Quenneville liked their four-line rotation better the last game, it would be a surprise if the Blackhawks changed that.

Ryan Hartman will play after missing the last two games with a lower-body injury.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Meanwhile, Artem Anisimov returns to Columbus for the first time since he was traded to the Blackhawks — he did not play in the regular-season finale here last April.

“I already experienced it when I was first traded to Columbus [from New York], but this feeling is different,” Anisimov said of being back here. “I don’t know how to describe it but it’s still weird coming back.”

The Blackhawks will see former teammate Brandon Saad, whose Blue Jackets are playing just their second game in six days. Columbus lost their opening two games.

“Yeah, it’s a little bit weird,” Saad said. “It’s almost like the season didn’t start with the break we had, so we’ve had a lot of practice and a lot of review. But we’re definitely looking to get back and paying games.”


Time: 6 p.m.

TV: CSN-Chicago

Radio: WGN 720AM

Projected lineups


Tyler Motte-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik

Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Vinnie Hinostroza-Nick Schmaltz-Ryan Hartman

Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Jordin Tootoo

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson

Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook

Trevor van Riemsdyk-Brian Campbell

Corey Crawford

Injuries: Marian Hossa (lower body), Andrew Desjardins (lower body).

Columbus Blue Jackets

Matt Calvert-Brandon Dubinsky-Cam Atkinson

Brandon Saad-Alexander Wennberg-Nick Foligno

Scott Hartnell-William Karlsson-Josh Anderson

Boone Jenner-Lukas Sedlak-Oliver Bjorkstrand

Ryan Murray-Seth Jones

Zach Werenski-David Savard

Jack Johnson-Markus Nutivaara

Sergei Bobrovsky