Antti Niemi, Niklas Hjalmarrson, and Corey Crawford are being featured prominently in the NHL Olympic players’ stories. This Blackhawks fan wanted to flash back to the offseason following the 2010 Stanley Cup Championship.
Stan Bowman the newly minted General Manager of the Chicago Blackhawks was faced with impossible choice after impossible choice. Bowman had to get the Blackhawks below the salary cap mess created by the previous GM Dale Talon. (Rumor has it Bowman was the one who didn’t get the qualifying offers in on time and not Talon.)
Bowman had to purge the roster of popular players: Ladd, Versteeg, Byfuglien etc. Bowman did not have a choice with those players. He did have a choice in the situation Niklas Hjalmarrson created. Hjalmarrson had been signed to an offer sheet by the San Jose Sharks. His offer sheet was for four years and fourteen million dollars (NHL.com). The offer sheet presented a problem because the Blackhawks were alright tight against the cap and they still had not signed goalie, Antti Niemi.
Bowman had to make two more difficult choices in an offseason filled with them. He had to choose between a young puck moving defenseman in Hjalmarrson and a goalie that just helped win the organizations’ first Stanley Cup in 69 years. The argument could be made for both positions. Some analysts might say a good goalie makes up for poor team play, while other people might say those young puck moving defensemen are hard to find.
One thing that this Blackhawks fan speculates is that Scottie Bowman philosophy had a lot to do with the choice. If you look at the Detroit Red Wing teams of Scottie Bowman, he always focused on great defense. They did not focus on the goalie being exceptional.
We all know who Stan Bowman chose. He matched the offer sheet to Hjalmarrson and he let Niemi leave via free agency to sign with Sharks. Bowman took an incredible risk in choosing Hjalmarrson over Niemi because the Blackhawks were not set at goalie. The Blackhawks did have Corey Crawford who had been playing well at Rockford. However Bowman was so unsure of his choice to let Niemi walk that he went out and signed Marty Turco to be the starter.
As fate would have it the choices by Bowman worked out for everyone involved. Hjalmarrson received his payday and stayed with Blackhawks to win another Stanley Cup. Antti Niemi got his payday with San Jose Sharks. Corey Crawford finally got his chance to be the goalie of the Chicago Blackhawks. Crawford would win his Stanley Cup Championship in 2013. Lastly Bowman would get the Blackhawks out from underneath the salary cap and get his goalie of the future.
After looking back my question to you Blackhawks fans: did anyone think that Bowman’s choice to keep Hjalmarrson over Niemi would change the franchise forever?