NASHVILLE – Artemi Panarin was still sporting that sheepish grin on Thursday morning.
He usually has that look of confidence but even more so now, thanks to a two-year extension that will keep him with the city and team he loves.
Panarin, who agreed to a two-year deal worth $12 million on Wednesday, was thrilled to have the process complete. He said he didn’t doubt something would get done, but finishing it before the offseason arrived was a bonus.
“I’m happy with the timing. It’s nice to get it out of the way,” Panarin said via interpreter Andrew Aksyonov. “Some of the pressure is relieved but some additional pressure is now here because I need to justify the trust that’s been given to me and perform as expected or better.”
That’s true, but performance hasn’t been an issue for Panarin in the season in a half he’s been here. The production has been great; so have the performance bonuses he’s earned from that on-ice work. Panarin earned more than $2.5 million in bonuses last season and could do the same in this one, which would add to the salary-cap crunch the Blackhawks will already experience with this latest contract.
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General manager Stan Bowman will have that on his plate again. As for Panarin, it’s about continuing the work he’s done with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov.
“I’m very happy to play along with Patrick. Any hockey player would cherish the opportunity to play along with a player like that,” Panarin said. “It gives me an opportunity to play my best hockey.”
Kane said it wasn’t at the point yet where he wondered if Panarin’s deal would get done. He and his line mates have had other priorities. The chance to keep working on what they’ve done thus far, and for a few more years, is enticing.
“I think Anisimov still has four years after this year and then Bread Man for a couple more years. Hopefully we just keep building our chemistry,” Kane said. “I don’t think we’re ever on the ice thinking about contracts or how long we’re going to be here. We’re just trying to build our chemistry every day. When you know we’re going to be here for a while, it’s nice to have that comfort with each other.”
The Blackhawks will once again have some choices to make this offseason. But they got the opportunity to sign Panarin to a deal that works for both of them right now, and everything else will be worked out later.
“If I agreed that means it was very important,” Panarin said of the deal. “Chicago gave me a chance to play at a very high level. I like everything about the team and environment here, and you can’t earn all the money in the world.”