When Richard Panik had his final season media session on April 22, he didn’t know what the future held for him. Coming off what he considered his most consistent season in the NHL, he hoped to return to the Blackhawks.
Now he will.
The Blackhawks and Panik agreed on a two-year extension, the team announced on Thursday. In a statement, general manager Stan Bowman said, “Richard made tremendous strides this past year and we were pleased with the consistency he showed throughout the season. We are looking forward to having him in Chicago for the next two seasons.”
Pierre LeBrun of TSN reported that Panik’s deal has a cap hit of $2.8 million per season. Panik is coming off a one-year deal with a $875,000 cap hit. Speaking on a conference call on Thursday morning, Panik said the deal the Blackhawks offered was a good one and there was, “not much thinking about it.”
Panik gets a raise but he earned it with his 2016-17 regular season, when he set career highs in goals (22), assists (22) and points (44). Panik was happy with his season, right up until the first round of the playoffs.
“I think when I look back at the season, this was my most consistent season in the NHL. That’s good. But when you get swept in the playoffs it’s not looking good, your individual season,” Panik said on April 22. “So you’re disappointed.”
Still, Panik provided a net-front presence that the Blackhawks needed this past season and will need going forward. He helped the top line find some stability, as he, Jonathan Toews and Nick Schmaltz were together for most of the season’s second half.
The Blackhawks will face another offseason of number crunching, and Panik’s new deal will add to that. According to CapFriendly.com, the Blackhawks are more than $3.6 million above the current cap ceiling ($73 million). That includes bonuses of more than $3.5 million that players earned in the 2016-17 season. In March, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the 2017-18 cap could be between $75.5-$76 million, depending on inflator negotiations with the NHLPA. Even with the increase, the Blackhawks will have some math to do.
Also, will the Blackhawks protect Panik in the upcoming expansion draft? It would seem they would, considering how happy they’ve been with Panik’s progression. The Blackhawks have to leave two forwards unprotected: Panik, Marcus Kruger, Ryan Hartman and Jordin Tootoo are all eligible to be exposed in the expansion draft.
“There is still a chance but hopefully Chicago will protect me,” Panik said. “My main reason [in re-signing] was I wanted to stay in Chicago. So hopefully they will protect me and I’ll stay here.”
Since coming to the Blackhawks in a minor-league trade in January of 2015, Panik has done some great things here. If the Blackhawks protect him, he’ll look to build off last season.
“I know how good I am, what I’m capable of and how I can play,” he said on Thursday. “Chicago gave me the opportunity and that’s what it’s all about. I wanted to show them, wanted to earn a spot on the team that was my main focus in training camp, to earn a spot and go from there.”