But most knew that when the Blackhawks were forced to match the deal that would pay Hjalmarsson $3.5 million for four years that Chicago – which had serious salary cap problems – would not be able to hold onto Niemi, who helped lead the Hawks to the Stanley Cup title. And when an arbitrator came up with a $2.75 million number, the Hawks walked away from Niemi and signed Marty Turco.
Niemi signed a one-year, $2 million deal with San Jose.
“We look at players who can help our team,” Wilson said. “And with [defenseman] Rob Blake retiring, and us making the decision on [goalie Evgeni Nabokov], those were two of the areas we were looking at.
“The offer we made on Hjalmarsson was a very fair offer. The compensation would have been a first-round and third-round pick. It was a flat offer. They had a decision to make. It should be a compliment, we liked their players. We also liked their goaltender. My job is to put the best team on the ice we can in San Jose, and follow the rules, which we did. I’ll leave it to other people to speculate or make comments [about whether the two transactions are connected], but that’s not the case.”
Niemi wouldn’t talk about whether he was disappointed to leave Chicago, but he did say playing the Hawks will be a highlight of next season.
“I think it will be for sure special, and the most exciting game of the regular season,” Niemi said.