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No progress in Niemi contract talks

CHICAGO -- With an arbitration hearing approaching, negotiations between goaltender Antti Niemi and the Chicago Blackhawks remain at a standstill.

The 26-year-old restricted free agent is scheduled to have his 2010-11 salary determined by a third party on July 29. The Hawks can sign Niemi or trade his rights to another team before that date.

Currently, the Hawks have little salary-cap space to afford the raise Niemi is due from his $800,000 salary of last season, when he helped lead the Hawks to the Stanley Cup title.

"I'm a bit at their mercy trying to find creative solutions to a problem I have no control over," Niemi's agent, Bill Zito, said on Wednesday.

If the Hawks do not trade Niemi before July 29, they have the option of turning down the arbitrator's decision, thus making Niemi an unrestricted free agent. If they sign him to the one-year deal at the salary the arbitrator determines, they still have the option of trading him -- or someone else -- before the season to comply with the salary cap.

Jesse Rogers covers the Blackhawks for ESPNChicago.com.