Despite only being in his second year in the NHL, Artemi Panarin has rapidly developed into one of the Chicago Blackhawks most important players. After netting 30 goals and 77 points as a rookie, Panarin is producing at a point-per-game rate and currently ranks fifth in the league in scoring as a sophomore. Set to become a restricted free agent in the summer, Panarin is poised to cash in and score a substantial long-term contract from Chicago.
Given Chicago’s current salary cap situation, the team is going to have to make some difficult decisions to make in order to free up enough space to fit Panarin’s next pact under the cap ceiling. As it stands today, the Hawks have roughly $60.6MM in salary cap commitments to 14 players in 2017-18. Depending on exactly where the cap ceiling falls, that would leave Chicago with somewhere between $13MM and $15MM in available space. Unless the team makes other moves to shed salary, the Blackhawks will have a tough time fleshing out their roster if they sign Panarin to a market-value extension.
As they’ve had to do often in the past, it’s likely the club will end up moving some veteran talent to free up space. With backup goalie Scott Darling performing well in Corey Crawford’s recent absence, some have speculated Chicago could look to move the latter and his $6MM cap charge. However, Chris Hine of the Chicago Tribune opines that moving Crawford is not the solution to the Blackhawks Panarin question.
While acknowledging that the team and their fans are likely tired of seeing some of their top young talent traded away due to salary cap concerns – Brandon Saad, Teuvo Teravainen and Andrew Shaw are a few of the players Chicago has drafted and developed only to see them moved elsewhere because of financial considerations – Hine believes any notion of dealing Crawford ignores the goalie’s importance to the team. Hine argues that Crawford has established himself as an elite netminder and his contributions to two Stanley Cup championships should not be ignored.
Additionally, Crawford has a modified NMC and there is little reason to believe he would waive it to facilitate a trade. While the specifics of the NMC are unknown, at the very least it would serve to limit Crawford’s market and complicate any potential trade. Further impacting the veteran goaltender’s hypothetical market is his $6MM cap charge. Few teams currently need a goalie and even fewer are in the position to take on that type of commitment.
Ultimately the Hawks will find a way to get a deal done with Panarin. He’s simply too talented and important to Chicago for them to let him get away. Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman will inevitably have to make a tough decision or two to free up the necessary cap space but moving Crawford likely won’t be one of them.
In other Blackhawks news:
- Despite being on the smaller side – 5-foot-9, 195 pounds – Jordin Tootoo has carved out a lengthy NHL career playing a tough, physical style and often fighting players much larger than himself. After a nine-point season with New Jersey in 2015-16, Tootoo hit free agency at a time when more teams are moving away from employing one-dimensional tough guys. Fortunately for the diminutive winger, Chicago found themselves in need of a veteran presence willing to work at or near the league minimum and inked the 33-year-old to a one-year deal worth just $750K. Tootoo recognizes the situation he now finds himself in and is willing to do whatever it takes to help his new team, as Scott Powers of The Athletic writes in a Q & A piece. Tootoo has yet to register a point on the season and is averaging just 6:44 of ice time per contest, but has done quality work as Chicago’s resident agitator and enforcer.
- Just days after Chicago forward prospect Alex DeBrincat was cut from Team USA’s WJC entry, fellow Blackhawks prospect Chad Krys was announced as the team’s final cut, CSN Chicago’s Charlie Roumeliotis reports. Krys, who represented Team USA last year in the same tournament, is in the midst of his freshman season at Boston University after the Hawks selected the defenseman in the second-round of the 2016 draft.