Chicago Blackhawks’ Artemi Panarin Signs New Deal

The Chicago Blackhawks have drawn a line in the sand on letting go of promising young talent, and Artemi Panarin is the cause

It’s over. The fear and hand-wringing associated with Chicago Blackhawks star forward Artemi Panarin possibly not re-signing with Chicago is over.

So says Scott Powers of The Athletic, confirmed by the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus, on Wednesday afternoon. Panarin has agreed with the Blackhawks on a contract extension.

The cost and length later came out via Elliotte Friedman as two years at $6 million per season — so it’s a well-paid bridge deal, something I would not have expected.

But this is a huge development for the Blackhawks. After having to let go of guys like Brandon Saad and Teuvo Teravainen, the Blackhawks decided they just couldn’t be without Panarin moving forward, even if it’s for just a couple more years. And who could blame them?

Panarin won the Calder Trophy for the NHL’s rookie of the year last season with an incredible first season out of the Kontinental Hockey League. The Bread Man put up 77 points in 80 regular-season games and seven more in seven postseason tilts.

He’s followed that up this year with 37 points in as many regular-season games, leading the Blackhawks in scoring thus far. He forms one of the league’s most lethal lines with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, but Panarin has proven he can score with anyone and from pretty much anywhere on the ice in a number of fascinating ways.

So this is all good news for the Blackhawks of the present, and certainly for the Blackhawks of the future in some respects. However, nothing is as simple as a man signing a piece of paper.

What does this mean for the Blackhawks?

Well, that’s where things get interesting. I was working up this post with the idea there was no way in hell Panarin was getting a bridge deal. And now he has. So … what now?

The Blackhawks obviously got their man, giving them one of the league’s most potent 1-2 scoring punches. But at what cost?

I thought it seemed unlikely Panarin and his camp would accept a bridge deal of 2 to 3 years, allowing the Blackhawks to evaluate their team and salary-cap situation after a shorter time. I would’ve imagined Panarin would want to get paid and paid now for his hard work.

And he is getting paid, as a $6 million-per-year bridge deal is a pretty sizeable one, cost-wise. It’s similar to the type of money the Blackhawks refused Saad in the 2015 offseason, but over a much shorter term. And, of course, Saad was never NHL Rookie of the Year or leading his team in points in Chicago.

Panarin’s cost is going to give the Blackhawks some work to do regarding the salary cap after the 2016-17 season is over. Think of it this way:

(Note: That tweet was sent out prior to the terms coming out. Good guess.)

And that’s talking the low end of the cost spectrum for the Blackhawks on Panarin. So things could be even tighter.

There’s no doubt the Blackhawks are going to have one of the league’s better cores, if not the best. Assuming Panarin isn’t on a bridge deal, which seems highly unlikely, the Blackhawks will have him, Kane, Anisimov, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook signed through at least 2020-21, with Niklas Hjalmarsson and Corey Crawford signed through 2018-19 and 2019-20, respectively.

Again, though, it isn’t that simple. Unless the Blackhawks plan on stocking a large portion of their roster with low-cost rookies or guys in their second and third years of the NHL, they’re going to need to make a corresponding move before the 2017-18 season begins.

While some will scream for Crow to be tossed overboard with his $6 million-a-year contract because backup goaltender Scott Darling has looked good in limited action, it seems more likely someone like Seabrook would go. He’s past his prime as a defenseman, and while he’s showing much better this season than he did last, he’s proven more replaceable than Keith or Hjammer on the back end.

However, perhaps a bridge deal means the Blackhawks have something else in mind on how to get under the cap. It’s such a weird situation all around, that I wouldn’t be surprised if Bowman had some other crazy move up his sleeve.

Regardless, the Blackhawks are getting at least two more years of one of the league’s best offensive talents. Congrats to Bowman and Co. on this decision. And the Blackhawks need to make the best of this two-year deal, because there’s no guarantee what happens after that is good for the team.

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