Thursday, September 2, 2010

As the Forehead Turns......

As the first day of September came and went, the Chronicles of the Forehead quickly got a whole lot more interesting. Several sources reported that Niemi would be signing a 1 year, $2 million contract as early as today. I literally laughed out loud, in my cubical, as I read this. First of all, because I was right once again, and secondly because Niemi and his agent, Bill (Don't call me Barry) Zito, look like a couple of Class A douche bags. Few things make me as happy as seeing an asshole agent and his naive/stupid client get completely embarrassed on a grand scale. I'll explain this pride swallowing move in a bit, but first, I'd like to clear up some misconceptions and incorrect information floating around in people's heads and throughout this wonderful place I like to call the interweb.

The Correct Antti Niemi information:

-Niemi made $826,875 last season. Previous to last season, he was an unknown minor league goalie, that couldn't win the starting job on the Rockford Icehogs, and had only one year of North American hockey experience.

-Niemi "won" the backup job because he had a shutout in his preseason game against Florida, in Finland, and Corey Crawford really didn't impress anyone.

-Niemi never "won" the starting job, outright. He was given it by default, when Huet simply crapped his jockstrap at the most important part of the regular season. Niemi was given several chaces to take the starting job and couldn't play consistent enough to force Quenneville to give it to him.

-Niemi has a grand total of 64 NHL games under his belt. His career in the NHL looks like the following:

64 games, 43-14-5, 152 Goals against, 9 Shutouts, 2.60 GAA, Sv% .911.

The Contract Saga:

-Niemi was a restricted free agent, which means the Blackhawks have the right to match any offer he signs with another team, given that they extend a qualifying offer to him before the deadline on June 28th. The qualifying offer must be at least 105% of the previous season’s salary, which would be $868,219. Niemi had two choices; go to a salary arbitration hearing, or sign a contract with a team. If he signed with any other team, the Hawks had the option of matching or getting compensation in return. In this case, the compensation would have been the other team’s second round pick, unless the offer was over $3,091,963, whereas the compensation would have been the other team’s 1st and 3rd round draft picks. Niemi's agent chose to go to arbitration.

-The Blackhawks extended a qualifying offer, worth a reported $1.5 million, to Niemi on June 27th. This was the debacle last year when Dale Tallon didn’t file the qualifying offers in time. As a result, Cam Barker, Troy Brouwer, Ben Eager, Colin Fraser, Aaron Johnson and Kris Versteeg all became unrestricted free agents. The team was then forced to overpay for Versteeg and Barker, which ultimately lead to their contracts being unloaded.

-The Hawks and Niemi could now negotiate the actual contract, or Niemi files for arbitration. His agent files by the deadline of July 5th. Both sides can still negotiate until the arbitration hearing, which was scheduled for July 31st, and if a contract is agreed upon, the hearing would be cancelled.

-The best reported offer that the Hawks made was a short term deal worth roughly $2 million a year. Niemi’s agent was reportedly looking for a reported 5 year deal, worth somewhere in the area of $3.5 million a year.

-The arbitrator awarded Niemi $2.75 million a year, which the Hawks had 48 hours to offer, or allow him to become unrestricted. The Hawks decided not to offer that contract and he became a free agent on August 2nd.

-Niemi reportedly agreed to a shockingly familiar short term $2 million offer with the Sharks on September 2nd.

Now these are all fun, but true facts. The qualifying offer was NOT the final offer the Hawks presented to Niemi. His agent turned down the same offer to come back, be the starting goalie and defend the Stanley Cup in Chicago, only to agree to the same offer a month later. In San Jose, he will have to fight for a starting job on a team that has already committed $2 million to Antero Niittymäki, and has young Tomas Greiss waiting for his time. Not to mention, San Jose consistently chokes every year in the playoffs, and has a far less talented defense than the Blackhawks. Niemi, Niittymäki, and Greiss are not an upgrade over Evgeni Nabakov. Nabakov is a solid veteran starting goalie, and they dumped him for 3 question marks. All this aside, a $2 million Niemi contract puts them over the cap by $912,501 without Greiss on the roster and still needing another defenseman. Welcome to Cap Hell, Doug Wilson, we’ve saved you a seat at the head of the table.

The last part I want to address is Forehead’s agent, Bill Zito. When all is said and done, Niemi got bad advice from his agent. Zito completely misread the market for goaltenders, and arrogantly turned down virtually the same offer to stay in Chicago where fan’s loved him. He must have also been intoxicated when he assumed his client could get almost $4 Million a year. Bill Zito, you sir, are an idiot and I hope you end up with less clients because of it.

The culprit and enemy; agent Bill Zito

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