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Turco Watchers Await Niemi Decision

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Three months ago you could have asked any generic NHL fan "Where is Marty Turco going to end up?" and a very large percentage of them would have said, with some certainty: "San Jose." I know of some genuine journalists who would have answered much the same way, a few of them quite emphatically. Then came Philadelphia. "Marty's probably going to end up in Philadelphia," people said. That talk got quite heated at the start of free agency.

But here we are, on the precipice of August, and we're on our third Turco-love connection: The Blackhawks. Antti Niemi's arbitration hearing came and went today and Blackhawk fans and we Marty Turco supporters wait patiently for the dollar figure.

For Stars fans (those of us who love and support Mr. Marty Turco) this is starting to drag on a little too long. I went from mega-loathing the idea of him playing anywhere else to vehemently wishing he at least go to the Eastern Conference, to now, rooting for the guy to just get signed somewhere, anywhere. I've already extolled the virtues of Marty Turco and told you what he means to me personally here. I know many of you couldn't care less about where he ends up, and what comments you do make are of this variety: "Good, if he plays with a good team he can't blame it on bad defense...". That's all well and good for you, but I think a lot of us are pulling for the guy.

But will it be Chicago? Call me skeptical, but I find myself jaded and fatigued from a July that was stuffed tighter than the spandex at your nearest Curves...stuffed with baseless rumor mongering and free agent speculation, that is. Is this another "cry of wolf," or is it going to happen this time? If you believe Turco's agent, we'll know in the next 7-10 days.

In the mean time Antti Niemi's award from the arbitrator is expected on Saturday, and then the Hawks can decide whether or not they can afford to pay the man who just goaltended them to a Stanley Cup. Says the Chicago Tribune:

Niemi and agent Bill Zito were expected to ask for more than $3 million for the one-year contract after he helped the Hawks to their first Stanley Cup since 1961. The team likely is hoping the arbitrator awards Niemi, who made $827,000 last season, around $2 million.

If the Hawks deem the award too high, they could let Niemi become an unrestricted free agent. They also could accept it, keep Niemi and possibly have to deal another player to remain below the NHL's salary cap, or they could trade Niemi.

"There are numbers we have in mind that would make it easier to fit him in versus really difficult to fit him in," Bowman said. "We're just going to have to wait and see."

Bowman also said "Our cap situation is tight ... Depending on where (the number) is, that's what would drive the boat." Better than Jerry Jones, who was talking about burning the boat last week.

So while I still would prefer Philadelphia as the Tucro's destination, I find myself kind of pulling for him with this Chicago development rumor speculation. Will the arbitrator award a guy who made less than a million last year over three million for next season? If the going rate for netminders so far this summer is any indication...I don't know...I think we all might be making a lot of noise about nothing again.