Have We All Gone Insane?

The Antti Niemi arbitration hearing is still a couple weeks away.  There’s no guarantee the case will even be heard as the Hawks and Niemi could settle before then.  However, there are few things that need to be said because there’s a lot of misinformation out there.

First of all, the confusion over the Jaroslav Halak contract has caused people to find the nearest rooftop and question the meaning of existence.  Halak’s cap hit of $3.75 million is utterly meaningless.  His contract escalates significantly the final two years of his contract because the Blues bought out his first two years of unrestricted free agency.  The more important numbers to look at are the $2.75 million he’s getting paid this year and the $3.5 million the following year.

Sparing everyone the comparison between the two players (mostly because whatever I say can be equally disputed by someone else.  Kind of why this is headed to an arbitrator to begin with.), the Hawks big decision before the hearing will be deciding whether to request a one-year or two-year contract for Niemi.  Since Niemi and his agent Bill Zito took the Hawks to arbitration, it’s on the the Hawks to choose whether they want the terms of the deal to be one or two years. 

It’s a fairly big decision for the Hawks. 

If they choose two years, Niemi wins the arbitration, and subsequently craps the bed this season, they’re stuck with two goalies making multi-millions for 2011-2012 season all while chewing up significant cap space.  If they choose one year and Niemi is superb, then they run the risk of losing him to next summer’s free agency as there will surely be a suitor for him.

As for the figures both parties are looking for, if Zito and Niemi are expecting to get paid upwards of $4 million as has been suggested, that is simply ludicrous.  I fail to see how an arbitrator could rule in their favor in that case.  Halak is currently the highest paid restricted free agent goalie at $2.75 million (I believe Hiller’s deal bought out the remainder of his restricted years.  Feel free to dispute that however.).  He has played in 50 more career games than Niemi, has better numbers…..oh here I go comparing the two when I promised I wouldn’t. 

They would be far more prudent to be looking for something around that 2.75 area code. 

The Hawks, on the other hand, are probably looking for a number hovering around the $2 million mark.  As stated above, the years are the bigger decision for the Hawks.  The salary they’ve probably already had in mind for some time. 

So there it is.  For now.

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8 Responses to Have We All Gone Insane?

  1. feyer says:

    Great analysis. My gut feel is that price range is about right, but nice to see some logic around it. Nice to see StanBow get a bit more aggressive in dealing with the RFAs – that something that was missing in the Talon era. Let’s hope this one doesn’t go to arbitration though, because the relationship damage from that process almost always results in the player leaving the team in 1 to 2 years

  2. Patrick says:

    John – what we have here is a serious lack of information, and since we live in an instant gratification, on-demand society, we are going insane.

    Okay, for real now, we’re all just playing pocket GM and are trying to figure out the next steps in the dog days of the hockey summer. The Tallon administration moved pretty quickly and usually overpaid for their contracts and we’re just not used to Stan’s deliberate steps, although we’ll definitely appreciate them more in the long run.

    With that, I think I’d do two years on Niemi, but you’re right in that there are risks in that. Any chance they sign Hjammer before Niemi?

    What more do the Hawks need to fill out the roster? I think one more forward as I’m not convinced Skille is the right man for a third of fourth line role. I’d love to see them sign Aaron Asham.

  3. John says:

    It’s not a lack of information, per se, so much as it is with people with the loudest megaphones (i.e. local media) giving out the wrong information. People are hung up on Halak’s cap hit which means nothing. All the information is staring straight at us.

    They currently have 13 players signed. Assuming Niemi and Sandwich agree to terms and Sharp is penciled in as the 2nd line center, they need two wingers to skate with Bolland, two wingers for Reasoner, two defensemen, and a back-up goalie. I would guess-timate that all of those holes will be plugged from within.

    But I wouldn’t say no to Asham below a million.

  4. Patrick says:

    Ah, that’s the difference of being in Chicago and outside of Chicago – there are plenty of local idiots that some of us don’t get exposure to. Here in Colorado, it’s been an even slower summer for the Avs and no one seems to care much, even the die-hards that I know.

    I posted a hypothetical ’10-’11 lineup over on Dave Morris’s blog. I think that it can be done with the current cap constraints, with several players getting promoted.

  5. CT says:

    The Chicago media is really on top of the hockey stories.

    Why, I read an enlightening piece by David Haugh the other day that informed me that the Hawks have to conform their salary structure to some sort of artificial “cap” dictated by the league office. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Ridiculous!

    I thought nobody could be worse than Barry Rozner, but Haugh just might be.

  6. Marts says:

    Likewise for myself Patrick. Laughing at home in Calgary over Sutter’s reign of… well, I’m not sure how to class his ‘reign’. Laughable I guess. Anyways, I digress…

    Stanley needs to tread carefully on this Niemi situation. Personally I’m in favour of 2 years if they can lock him in for ~2.5 per season and I think Antti and his agent are delusional if they want upwards of 3.5 – 4 mil. The problem for me is two-fold. For one, as stated above, arb hearings have a nasty track record for turning players and management sour on one another – and I think we’ve got a winner on our hands, which brings me directly to my second thought. Stan, IMO, has done a good job of getting value back for what was a very precarious cap situation and I’d hate for us to start ‘gifting’ away cap & term for a guy who is still somewhat unproven. By all indications the only reason Niemi was on the roster after camp broke last season was because although both Niemi and Crawford were on one-way deals, Crawford was much less likely to clear waivers if he needed to be sent down for seasoning. I would think, despite Niemi’s great run, that this is still in front of management.

  7. Ban says:

    Patrick: I don’t see why Skille wouldn’t be ready for at least a 4th line role. He’s as good as he’s going to get in the AHL and has played pretty well for us when called on. It’s sink or swim for him now. NHL or bust.

  8. Big Tony says:

    LeBron can eat a bag of shit. This editorial brought to you by Incredulous Bulls Fans of Chicago.

    Now, back to your regularly scheduled hockey talk!

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