For teams still looking for a competent, veteran depth option at center, Artem Anisimov remains on the open market. The 33-year-old Russian is coming off of a five-year, $22.75MM extension he signed with the Chicago Blackhawks prior to the 2015-16 season, which kicked in for the 2016-17 campaign. After his offensive production started to decline in Chicago, though, he was dealt to the Ottawa Senators, where he spent the final two seasons of the deal.
Anisimov looked better during his first season in Ottawa, leading some to believe he still had gas left in the tank. A lot of luck went into his 2018-19 season, though, scoring 15 goals but only five assists for 20 points in 49 games. His production wasn’t helped by the fact that he saw a significant ice-time reduction in Ottawa, playing under 14 minutes a night for the first time since 2009-10.
The Russian center still had a respectable year this season but was often a healthy scratch. While his performance may have not necessarily warranted in on a team as thin as the Senators, the aging veteran didn’t quite mesh with the team’s youth movement and was removed from the lineup in favor of ice time for younger players. His finishing luck didn’t quite hold up this season either, but still was respectable offensively in a limited role.
Despite being most well-known for his time in Chicago, he joined the team just after their last Stanley Cup in 2015. Through 13 seasons, Anisimov has never lifted the Stanley Cup above his head. He still has six years and 43 games of playoff experience, though, including a run to the 2012 Eastern Conference Final with the New York Rangers. He’ll likely attempt what could be his last chance at a championship this year on a one-year deal.
2020-21: 19 GP, 2-7-9, +1 rating, 2 PIMS, 30 shots, 46.3% CF, 12:02 ATOI
Career: 771 GP, 180-196-376, -17 rating, 214 PIMS, 1,380 shots, 49.7% CF, 15:58 ATOI
The market may be thin for a player such as Anisimov at this point. While the fact remains that he prefers to stay in North America, his lack of defensive reliability doesn’t quite line up with what many teams are currently looking for in a fourth-line pivot.
If Anisimov is staying in the league, his role will likely be as a team’s 13th forward and certainly won’t be in the lineup every night. A return to a former team in the Rangers may make some amount of sense. He’ll add an additional veteran presence to a team trying to make a surprise run at a championship this season, and would compete for spots in the lineup with Kevin Rooney, Dryden Hunt, and others. He’d do just fine in a sheltered, not-overworked role with a bolstered squad around him.
The Toronto Maple Leafs could also be in the market for a more offensively-minded center that they can use in certain situations, mainly as an alternative to defensive players David Kampf and Pierre Engvall. It’s another good opportunity for Anisimov to chase a championship, as they return with a strong defense and improved goaltending.
Anisimov was not among the players included on our Top 50 UFA list, published at the end of July. But after the dust has settled and many players have found homes, Anisimov remains as one of the more sure and consistent options left on the market, which may not be saying much. It’s hard to envision a world where Anisimov would make seven figures on a potential one-year deal, especially considering the lack of games played last season. However, it’s still feasible to predict that Anisimov will have at least one more year in the NHL.