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2010 NHL Free Agency: Antti Niemi's agent hopes to make deal before salary arbitration

Jul 14, 2010, 12:40 PM EDT

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Niemi10.jpgAntti Niemi’s potential July 29 salary arbitration case would be one of the most intriguing in recent NHL history. It could set a precedent for players who have skinny resumes with big bullet points like “won starting job over $5.6 million goalie” and “back-stopped team to Stanley Cup in first playoff run.”

That being said, with 42 career regular season games and 22 playoff appearances, that resume is very skinny. Chicago Breaking News reports that Niemi’s agent Bill Zito would like to work out a deal with the team rather than falling to the mercy of the arbitration judges.

Niemi has an arbitration hearing scheduled for July 29, and his salary for the 2010-11 season will be determined at that time unless his agent Bill Zito and Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman can reach a deal before then.

“There are a number of different ways to go and I guess it’s up to Stan and I to try and find something that makes sense for everybody,” Zito said Wednesday on “The Mully & Hanley Show” on WSCR-AM 670. “Antti would like to stay and like to be a part of this thing and I guess the onus is on us to figure out a way to do it.”

Despite Niemi’s impressive showing during the Hawks’ drive to the Stanley Cup championship, Zito said he’d rather not leave it up to an arbitrator to make sure his client gets a nice raise from his salary of $827,000 last season.

What Zito didn’t reveal is what Niemi is looking for.

Would the Finnish goalie rather get paid big money over the short term so he can shoot for a whopper of a deal later? Perhaps, instead of a high annual salary, he might prefer the security that comes with a longer-term, more cap-friendly contract? It’s quite possible that Zito could point to Jaroslav Halak as a parallel for Niemi; after all, they both emerged in the playoffs after fighting for a starting job during the regular season.

Another thing to remember is that, at 26, Niemi is one year away from unrestricted free agency. Might he roll the dice with a one-year deal with Chicago, hoping to land a monster deal next summer after proving that he’s not a fluke in 2010-11?

It’s a fascinating situation, for sure. Stay tuned, hockey fans (and salary cap dorks).

(H/T to Kukla’s Korner.)

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