The honest truth is that for the Blackhawks, Artemi Panarin is the one that got away. A new truth, perhaps harder to swallow, is that the "Breadman" never wanted to leave.
Following the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Rangers Wednesday, in which Panarin scored his 30th goal of the season, he told the Daily Herald's John Dietz he expected to play his entire career in a Blackhawks sweater.
"When I played here in Chicago I [thought] I would play here my whole life," said Panarin, whose 79 points are good for fifth in the league this season. "And then that happened. It still confuses me."
Panarin, now 28, had 151 points (61 goals, 90 assists) with Chicago in two seasons after signing a free-agent contract on May 1, 2015. The winger previously played in the Kontinental Hockey League before winning the Calder Trophy in 2016 as the NHL's top rookie.
Panarin immediately established an undeniable chemistry with Patrick Kane, which aided Kane in grabbing the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP in 2016.
"Obviously an amazing player, a player that you'd pay to watch play the game," Kane said of Panarin. "Still try to stay pretty close with him and stay in contact and just kind of catch up here and there throughout the season."
During his second season with Chicago, Panarin agreed to a two-year $12 million contract, when he could have gotten more elsewhere.
In June 2017, the Blackhawks traded the dynamic winger to the Columbus Blue Jackets, along with forward Tyler Motte and a draft pick, to re-acquire Brandon Saad and get goalie Anton Forsberg and a pick.
"I was not ready for that," Panarin said. "It was a big surprise for me. I feel bad after trade."
Now, the man of bread is locked up for six more years after this one with the Rangers at an AAV north of $11.6 million and his contract has a no movement clause.
"I love Chicago," Panarin said. "Nice every time I come here. Enjoy it. It's a great city and thanks [to] the fans for a warm welcome. I appreciate it."
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