Antti Niemi Will Be Back For Chicago Blackhawks' 2010 Opener

Kyle WahlgrenCorrespondent IJune 21, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - JUNE 09:  Antti Niemi #31 of the Chicago Blackhawks handles the puck against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game Six of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Wachovia Center on June 9, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The 26-year-old, Finnish net-minder, will be pressed for decisions within the next few days.  With the NHL draft this weekend in Los Angeles, CA, that means the free agency period is right around the corner.

As a restricted free agent, the Blackhawks will have the opportunity to match any offer.  Notice how I say opportunity and not ability?

It seems like continuous déjà vu when discussing the Blackhawks’ off-season.  With the salary cap creating tight circumstances, the only way to be sure of getting back those who can truly carry the team is to be thorough. 

Lucrative signings such as:  Brian Campbell, Cristobal Huet and Marian Hossa, will not be in sight this season.  The Hawks believe they have the corner stones of a strong foundation and the way to keep Niemi is to sign him before the free agency period opens.

How couldn’t the organization after winning a Stanley Cup?

At the start of last season, the majority of concerns revolving around the Blackhawks was an inconsistent goaltending.  Antti Niemi provided the answer, but unfortunately that concern could be refreshed come the drop of the puck next season.

While rumors have begun drifting around in regards to a demanded pay hike and elongated type extension, Niemi has remained quiet about next season.  Repeatedly he has stated that he doesn’t wish to address contract questioning. 

So what do we take from this?  He has been a very big PR tool for the Blackhawks' organization.  Since the Cup finals he has been attending many “fan appreciation” type functions.  Unfortunately the active role being played doesn’t settle too well in the stomachs of those who want the re-assurance of having their number one goaltender back for a title defending season. 

For those looking for a bright-side to the outlook, you have to search no further than the free agency market itself.  It is flooded with success, experience and competition.  What this will do is drive the salaries down due to the fact having so much talent dilutes the pool.

Take a look at the available goaltenders that may help the Blackhawks lure Niemi back to Chicago:


As you can see, the depth is immense.   The talent and experience is very prominent and for this reason, Antti Niemi will be back in Chicago next year. 

Aside from the fact that he may get more elsewhere, why leave when the chance to win is so great?  The mere idea of Niemi in any other jersey is unlikely. 

The NHL loves him in Chicago.  The Blackhawks love him in Chicago.  Highlight-reels love him in Chicago.  Chicago loves him in Chicago.  Niemi will return, give him a pen and show him the dotted line.