Chicago Blackhawks forward Artem Anisimov is exceeding expectations on offense so far, but that could be an issue later
Through 13 games of the 2016-17 NHL season, Artem Anisimov is the leading point-scorer and goal-scorer in the league. Like we all predicted.
While yes, he is tied for the league-lead in goals with Sidney Crosby and Patrik Laine with eight goals so far, it’s the lead nonetheless. But there is no denying that Anisimov’s hot start to the year is happily unexpected and at the same time hauntingly problematic.
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It can’t be said enough, Anisimov’s production is great and a big key to why the Blackhawks are currently riding a six-game winning streak and are at the top of the Central Division and tied for the lead in the NHL’s Western Conference. The problem lies with if the production will continue for Anisimov on the current pace.
Currently, Anisimov is on pace to lead the league in scoring with 107 points. Pretty sure that will not be the case when the season wraps up in April. But what if he finishes the year scoring a point per game or better? Finishes with 80, 85, 90 points? Makes the NHL All-Star game? Is in the running for the Art Ross? What happens?
No one is sure because coming into this season, Anisimov hasn’t finished a season with more than 44 points and last season, his first with Chicago, was the first time he topped the 40-point mark since the 2010-11 season when he was with the New York Rangers.
When the Blackhawks acquired Anisimov in the Brandon Saad trade, he was signed immediately to a five-year contract extension that takes effect this season. His cap-hit rose from $3.28 Million to $4.55 million and will stay at that mark until the extension ends after the 2020-21 season.
Oct 28, 2016; Newark, NJ, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov (15) celebrates after scoring the game winning goal past New Jersey Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid (1) during overtime at Prudential Center. The Blackhawks defeated the Devils 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Or at least that’s what is supposed to happen because Anisimov is supposed to be a 40-45 point, second-line center. What happens when Anismov puts up numbers in a season like Crosby? Out-scores Jonathan Toews? What happens to that extension?
Is Anisimov really supposed to sit back after a potential season like that and say, “Yep, that’s fine. I’m good with my pay grade.” Like any professional athlete would do, he’d look for his cash-in.
The Blackhawks are already a perennial salary cap crunch team and a big 2016-17 season could lead to Anisimov out-pricing or handcuffing the Blackhawks with a potential contract re-working or another extension looking to secure the rest of his career with the Blackhawks, i.e. Marian Hossa.
Anisimov has a no-movement clause this year and next, and a modified no-trade clause in 2018-19 before being open to movement beginning in 2019. So it could mean roster changes if Arty wants his cash-in moment.
Looking at the rest of the roster
What would the Blackhawks do with Artemi Panarin needing a new, big contract?
Unless Anisimov fizzles off into his normal production rate or has a big year and wants to go the route of Brian Campbell and give Chicago a break when it comes to contract talks, he could be a divisive figure for Chicago. Yes, everyone wants everybody to score and produce as much as possible, but if Anisimov continues on his current pace, it could be a big problem.