- Jesse Rogers, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Stanley Cup champion Hawks have a 48-hour window to make a decision. They can walk away and make Niemi an unrestricted free agent immediately, or accept the decision and sign Niemi at that salary for one season. The Hawks could also accept the decision, sign and then trade Niemi.
The Hawks offered the arbitrator $1.5 million and the Niemi camp came in at $4 million, according to sources familiar with the case.
Niemi earned $826,875 last season as a rookie. He played all but one period of Chicago's postseason run to the title, going 16-6 with a 2.63 goals-against average, .910 save percentage and two shutouts.
Niemi, 26, filed for arbitration as a restricted free agent after his agent, Bill Zito, and Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman were unable to agree on contract terms.
Since winning their first Stanley Cup in 49 years, the Blackhawks have shed a handful of players from their roster, either via trade or free agency, to remain under the cap next season. Their situation is complicated by some $4 million in player performance bonuses that were earned last season but will be charged against their 2010-11 cap limit.
Bowman has talked to other teams about "different options," in case the Hawks don't re-sign Niemi.
Jesse Rogers covers the Blackhawks for ESPN 1000 and ESPNChicago.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.