Blackhawks sign Marty Turco
Niemi was awarded a $2.75 million judgment from an arbitrator on Saturday, and the Blackhawks had 48 hours to accept the judgment, trade him or let him become an unrestricted free agent. He now is an unrestricted free agent.
"That number was never going to work for us," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said on "The Afternoon Saloon" on ESPN 1000. "So we would have had to make some other moves to free up money.
"But as we talked to different teams about options, nothing really ever materialized. So it was a matter of just not being there financially. We were fortunate to be able to get someone of Marty's ability and record to be able to come in and work within our budget."
Turco gets $1.3 million. According to his agent, Kurt Overhardt, Turco could have earned more money and gotten a longer contract elsewhere.
"We spoke to four different teams and turned down different opportunities and amounts," Overhardt said. "He turned down teams with higher considerations and longer terms ... Marty's priority was joining a team that could win a Stanley Cup, and he chose Chicago."
Bowman said there were talks with Niemi's agent, Bill Zito, about different scenarios, but Bowman said the money wasn't to the liking of Niemi's camp.
"We made several contract offers, including a multiyear offer, and we were never able to work it out," Bowman said. "We decided to go in another direction.
"Marty has an accomplished record in the league, and he's going to complement our team. I know he's hungry for a Stanley Cup, and we're hungry to defend the Stanley Cup."
Zito told ESPNChicago.com that Chicago never extended a multiyear offer, but Bowman didn't want to argue the point.
"We discussed some numbers, but did not really get off them in so far as structuring a specific multiyear offer," Zito said. "It was more of a general conversation surrounding limitations placed on [Bowman] by the cap. But there is no drama there, what could we do?
"We always knew this would be a risk, and any time you file for arbitration, in this climate, we knew this could be a possibility -- so we live with our decisions."
Zito said Niemi, who is back home in Finland, is disappointed. Niemi, 26, was 26-7 with a 2.25 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. He also had seven shutouts.
"Just imagine how anyone would feel in his situation," Zito said. "His situation is exacerbated a little bit more than those guys the Blackhawks traded away because of going through all the drama of the arbitration.
"You're 26 years old, just had your breakout year and win the Cup," Zito added. "It's all cap management. I have to respect the hockey decision they made and live with it."
Zito said he was talking to several NHL teams and expects Niemi to land with a new club before the start of the season.
Niemi is the eighth player to leave the Blackhawks since the team won its first Stanley Cup in 49 years, joining Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Adam Burish, Colin Fraser and Kris Versteeg. John Madden, a 37-year-old unrestricted free agent, has yet to sign with a team.
Bowman said he had been eyeing Turco for some time and trying to coordinate the timing of the signing so another NHL team wouldn't take him.
Turco, 34, went 22-20 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .913 save percentage and four shutouts for the Dallas Stars last season. In his NHL career, Turco is 262-154-63 in 509 regular-season games with a 2.31 goals-against average and 40 shutouts.
Bowman said the team expects "immediate" contributions from Turco, who has played all nine of his NHL seasons with Dallas. The three-time All Star has never advanced past the conference finals in six playoff appearances with the Stars.
"We were a little bit surprised [to get this opportunity]," said Turco, who was vacationing with friends in Scotland. "I said earlier about the desire to play for [the Blackhawks] before the playoffs even began. When they won, I assumed the opportunity was erased.
"I'm more than excited to help Chicago do what they want to do, which is [defend] the Stanley Cup. It's been almost a dream come true to play for an Original Six team, especially one with [the number of] Tony Esposito, who's from my hometown [Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario], up in the rafters. It's an amazing day for my family and me to become a Blackhawk."
The 5-foot-11 Turco is 21-26 with a 2.17 goals-against average in 47 playoff games. The Stars, however, have missed the postseason for two straight years.
"I haven't lost my confidence, although the last few years have been tough mentally because we haven't made the playoffs," Turco said.
He added: "I had offers from other teams and multiyear deals, but I had a chance to be a part of this great organization. Waiting, especially looking at it from today, doesn't seem that difficult."
Bowman said the Blackhawks are nearly finished with their massive overhaul due to salary-cap constraints, although he did say they would add a defenseman.
"The players that aren't with us anymore, we'll always have that championship together," Bowman said. "There was no bitterness at all about that.
"[Niemi] was a big part of it, clearly. But we're on to the next thing. We're excited about the opportunity to defend the Cup. And we're very excited to have someone of Marty's caliber in our organization. We have to look forward. We had a great season last year, a great ending, but we're looking forward."
Bowman said he'll turn his attention now to what to do with veteran Cristobal Huet, whose contract likely will have to come off the books. He said Turco will be a good mentor for young goalie Corey Crawford.
Jesse Rogers covers the Blackhawks for ESPNChicago.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.