The Chicago Blackhawks and goaltender Antti Niemi had their arbitration hearing in Chicago Thursday. A ruling from the arbitrator is expected by Saturday. It’s a situation worth watching if you’re interested in what could happen with former Stars goalie Marty Turco.
Once the arbitrator announces a contract for Niemi the Blackhawks will have 48 hours to make a decision. They can accept it and sign Niemi or they can walk away from it, making him an unrestricted free agent. There's also the option of accepting the arbitrator's ruling on the contracti and then trading Niemi.
If the Blackhawks decide to part ways with Niemi, then Turco could come into play as a free agent signing. His name has surfaced in recent days as an option for the Blackhawks. So has Jose Theodore's.
Chicago GM Stan Bowman wouldn’t say if he has talked to Turco.
"There are lots of goaltenders on the market we're evaluating,” he told reporters during a conference call Thursday evening.
Of course if Niemi remains a Blackhawk, then the speculation on where Turco might land will shift to other teams. Philadelphia is still one team that pops up in Turco discussions. The Flyers are tight against the cap, but they have eight defensemen and could make a move to free up some space. Although the Sharks signed Antero Niittymaki earlier this month, I still think they could be in the market for a No. 1 goalie. Perhaps there is something else out there.
But the Niemi decision appears to be the first step in the process as far as getting things moving on the goaltender front, and a resolution is coming soon.
Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com has more on Niemi’s arbitration here.