Blackhawks

Artemi Panarin likely to make Blackhawks debut vs. Stars

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Artemi Panarin likely to make Blackhawks debut vs. Stars

Artemi Panarin stood alongside friend and teammate Viktor Tikhonov, who’s doubled as Panarin’s translator during his first few weeks here.

So learning English, how’s that going?

“What?” Panarin said himself to laughs before deferring to Tikhonov to translate the rest of his answer.

“He thought it was going to be easier,” Tikhonov said.

What has been easier for the 23-year-old Russian is getting back up to speed after an upper-body injury sidelined him for nearly two weeks. Panarin, through Tikhonov, said he feels “better than he expected” when he practiced with the Blackhawks on Friday. And now there’s a chance he could play in the team’s preseason finale against the Dallas Stars on Saturday.

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Panarin was on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane on Friday, and he could be there again against the Stars. Coach Joel Quenneville, who said it was doubtful Panarin would play any preseason games at all a few days ago, sounded much more optimistic on Friday.

“These last couple of days, two days with Kaner, Arty looks like there’s something there,” Quenneville said. “He really looked good today, and it was noticeable yesterday. The kid’s got some jump to his game and I like how he snaps pucks and we’re looking forward to seeing him playing.”

Panarin’s only played a day or two with Anisimov and Kane, but he didn’t sound worried about adjusting.

“They're really talented players and really experienced,” Tikhonov translated. “He knows they'll definitely help him out and he's going to try help out the line and make everyone better.”

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Kane said there’s no doubt Panarin has the talent.

“As you can tell he’s very skilled,” Kane said. “He’s got a nice little quick release to him and also very good stick-handler and skater. So you can tell the skill’s all there. It’s top notch, as far as I’m concerned.”

Panarin’s foray into English hasn’t produced results as quickly as he would’ve hoped. He’s still working on that, from Skyping with a teacher to trying his best to speak English when he goes into stores. The on-ice transition has been smoother, to a degree. He’ll get a better idea of where he is there on Saturday.

“He's not too worried about the adjustment. He's more worried about getting in shape and starting the season,” Tikhonov said for Panarin. “He said everything that he's been working on this summer he's kind of had to start over. The season's long too. It's going to be tough. He knows it.”

Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?

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USA TODAY

Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?

Here's an interesting development as we approach the NHL Draft: Artemi Panarin has informed the Blue Jackets that he's not ready to consider an extension "at this time" and because of that, Columbus is testing the market for the Russian winger, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen responded to the report shortly after in a statement released by the team:

"Artemi is an elite National Hockey League player. Our position has been that we want him to be a Blue Jacket for many years and that has not changed. He has a year left on his contract, so there is plenty of time to work towards that end. Should anything change moving forward, we will address it at that time and any decision we make will be in the best interest of our club.”

Ironically, Panarin was traded to Columbus on the afternoon of last year's draft as part of a blockbuster package that sent Brandon Saad back to Chicago. It shook up the hockey world, and has the potential to do so again.

Panarin is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2019, but is free to sign an extension with Columbus on July 1. Clearly, that doesn't seem to be in the cards right now and it's why the Blue Jackets have to put out feelers. They can't risk losing him for nothing.

On the flip side, Panarin has every right to test the open market. He has one year left on his contract that carries a $6 million cap hit. He's due for a hefty raise, will be 27 years old next summer — the prime of his hockey career — and will certainly be looking for a long-term deal after accepting a bridge contract with the Blackhawks.

Speaking of whom, should his former team explore bringing him back to Chicago now that he's on the market?

Every general manager should and will do their due diligence and call for an asking price, Stan Bowman included. Those conversations might start with Alex DeBrincat or Nick Schmaltz, and if that's the case, you say thanks but no thanks and move on. 

The Blackhawks have the Nos. 8 and 27 picks in this year's draft as possible ammunition, but the Blue Jackets are ready to take that next step. They were up 2-0 in their first-round series before losing four straight to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. It's unlikely they'd be looking to center a potential deal around draft picks. 

The only way you even consider it from the Blackhawks perspective is if Panarin is guaranteed to sign a long-term extension at a price you're comfortable with, but that's one of the main reasons why they traded him in the first place. 

To cap it all off, trading for Panarin wouldn't even address the Blackhawks' biggest need and that's a Top 4 defenseman. Those don't grow on trees. The Blackhawks will have the cap space to sign a player like James van Riemsdyk to patch up their top 6. You can't say the same for the free-agent blue line group.

So while it may certainly be fun for Blackhawks fans to come up with possible trade scenarios to get Panarin back in an Indianhead sweater, it just doesn't make great sense for a variety of reasons.

NHL Draft Profile: F Filip Zadina

NHL Draft Profile: F Filip Zadina

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Filip Zadina

Position: Forward
Height: 6-foot-0
Weight: 195 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"He's got the puck skills, is a good skater, and is a guy with some high-end offensive talent. He wants to get right in there and play where it's hard and where you get rewarded. When he gets that puck on his stick, he wants to bury it."

NHL player comparable: Marian Hossa

Fit for Blackhawks:

You know who the Blackhawks missed last year? Hossa. It's not mentioned enough when analyzing what went wrong in 2017-18. 

Well, Zadina is a player who's got the upside of Hossa and is one of a few prospects who could potentially crack the NHL lineup this upcoming season. The scouting report above is all you need to know about Zadina's style of play, and Blackhawks fans surely nodded through the whole thing because it's exactly what the team is looking for.

However, this is a case where the Blackhawks would have to trade up to snag him if they want him, because there's little chance he'll be on the board when the eighth pick rolls around. And it's probably unlikely they would do so, given what it may take to move up a few spots.