Chicago Blackhawks: Nikita Kucherov Deal Worth Keeping Eye On

For the future of Artemi Panarin with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team ought to look to a deal signed this offseason

The Tampa Lightning are among the favorites to emerge from the Eastern Conference this season, and they just re-signed Nikita Kucherov to a bridge deal for 3 years and $14.3 million. While many around the NHL believed the bridge deal was dead, the Lightning managed to get it done with a key young player. The move keeps the core of the Lightning intact for now.

The Chicago Blackhawks should take note on how Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman handled the situation with his Russian star.

The Blackhawks have their own Russian star who will be in need of a contract extension. Artemi Panarin is currently in the last year of his entry-level contract, which pays him $3.5 million but has a cap hit of $812,500. With the Blackhawks having a ton of uncertainty in their forward group this season, losing Panarin would be another huge loss in a string of players leaving the organization.

Word out of Panarin’s camp is that he wants Brandon Saad-type money in the form of 6 years and $36 million. As general manager Stan Bowman has shown in the past, he is not afraid of trading a player because he has priced himself out of the Blackhawks’ salary cap situation.

Saad is a major recent example of Bowman trading a player early with concern about being able to sign him later, and he added Andrew Shaw and Teuvo Teravainen to the list this offseason.

Teravainen was traded because of his impending payday after this season. His ELC ends after this season. Shaw, meanwhile, wanted a type of deal the Blackhawks couldn’t afford.

Unlike Kucherov, Panarin only has one season of success in the NHL, so he might have to temper his contract demands. If the World Cup of Hockey is an indicator, Panarin needs Patrick Kane on the ice to be hugely successful.

Panarin has two goals and one assist for three points in four games, with all three of those coming in Tuesday’s win against Philadelphia. Kane just notched his first goal of the season in the same game.

People in the Panarin camp could make the arugument that Kane did not reach his potential until he was on the same line as Panarin. Both Kane and Panarin were awarded in the most recent offseason with the Hart and Calder trophies, respectively.

The Blackhawks cannot really afford to commit $6 million to another forward right now, as Kane and Jonathan Toews have cap hits of $10.5 million till 2022-23.

This might be the toughest decision for Bowman to make to date. Bowman should look to Yzerman’s lead on this type of situation. He should try to get Panarin to sign a bridge deal.

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