Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Artemi Panarin to cash in on performance bonuses

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Blackhawks: Artemi Panarin to cash in on performance bonuses

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It’s been a very productive season for Blackhawks rookie Artemi Panarin. It’s about to be a very profitable one, too.

Panarin, who recorded three points in the first period against the Columbus Blue Jackets, will earn $2.575 million in performance bonuses this season. Part of Panarin’s productive first included his 30th goal of the season. He’s the first Blackhawks rookie to hit that number since Eric Daze did it in the 1995-96 season.

The 24-year-old has been on a hot streak lately, recording five goals and eight assists in his last four-plus games (including the first period of Saturday’s contest). Panarin had already earned $850,000 in Schedule A bonuses; to collect another $1.725 million, Panarin had to finish as a top-10 forward in one of the following: goals, assists, points or points per game. His performance on Saturday ensures he’ll do that.

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Yes, that means the Blackhawks will be in salary-cap hell again next season.

According to generalfanager.com Panarin’s bonuses, as well as Michal Rozsival’s — $100,000 for 50 games played — means the Blackhawks will have $2.9 million in bonuses counting against next season’s cap. So the team that has had to say goodbye to many players over the years due to salary-cap constraints will probably be doing it again this offseason.

Coach Joel Quenneville said a few days ago that there was “no chance” he would sit Panarin if the Russian was close to achieving his bonuses.

“My perspective is, I like when players are successful and they meet their goals. We’ll do everything we can to help them be the best they can. That’s our motivation here. The other stuff sorts itself out,” Quenneville said Saturday morning. “It doesn’t help us, but at the same time, we don’t mind having to deal with those type of issues.”

With Connor Murphy set to return, Blackhawks reassign Adam Boqvist to Rockford

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USA TODAY

With Connor Murphy set to return, Blackhawks reassign Adam Boqvist to Rockford

The Blackhawks announced Thursday morning that they have reassigned top defenseman prospect Adam Boqvist to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

The 19-year-old Swedish defenseman appeared in six games for the Blackhawks and averaged 14:27 of ice time. He scored his first career NHL goal in his second appearance in a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 2.

But with Connor Murphy (groin) eligible to come off long-term injured reserve on Saturday, the Blackhawks had to make a corresponding move to become cap compliant and Boqvist was the obvious candidate to be sent back down.

He’s still in the early stages of his development, but Boqvist certainly held his own at the NHL level during his brief stint. The Blackhawks want him to continue playing top pairing minutes and in all situations, and it would’ve been difficult for him to do that in Chicago with Murphy returning to the lineup.

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Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner tandem proving to be exactly what Blackhawks envisioned

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AP

Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner tandem proving to be exactly what Blackhawks envisioned

LAS VEGAS — The first day of NHL free agency is always exciting for hockey fans, particularly the first hour when most of the moves are announced at a rapid rate. Last offseason, the Blackhawks had a quiet few hours before dropping the hammer on the most surprising signing of the day, Robin Lehner, to a one-year deal.

“I think we have the best 1-2 punch in the league is the way I look at it right now,” GM Stan Bowman said on July 1. “I certainly feel really comfortable going into next season, whether Corey Crawford’s in net or Robin Lehner’s in net.”

So does the entire city of Chicago.

More than one month into the 2019-20 season, the goaltending tandem between Crawford and Lehner is exactly what the Blackhawks envisioned it would be. That’s what happens when you pair a Vezina Trophy finalist with a two-time Stanley Cup winner.

"We got two guys who are outstanding," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I think they're both going real well now and that's a huge advantage for us no matter who's in the net, we're getting a chance to win. It gives our guys a chance to come through offensively, so they've been big for us."

After starting the season 1-4-0 with a 3.67 goals-against average and .888 percentage, Crawford has been lights out since the calendar flipped to November. He’s 2-0-2 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in his last four starts, which includes a 39-save performance in a 5-3 win over the Golden Knights on Wednesday.

Lehner has been one of the league’s best from the beginning. His .934 save percentage ranks second among goaltenders with at least six appearances and his goals saved above average at 5-on-5 ranks fourth-best, according to Natural Stat Trick. Crawford's goals saved above average of 4.21 puts him at ninth.

And this is despite the fact the Blackhawks are giving up the most shots on goal per game (37.1), second-most high danger chances per 60 minutes at even strength (13.1) and third-most scoring chances per 60 minutes at even strength (29.2).

While the dynamic may have been awkward at first, both goaltenders appear to be making the best of the circumstances and view it as healthy competition.

"I mean, he's doing a great job," Crawford said of Lehner. "Definitely keeping us in games or being a big factor in some wins. I think both of us are just trying to be at our best when we get the chance."

The challenging part of the situation is getting both guys a fair amount of starts. Crawford has been vocal about preferring to start regularly — “it’s a little bit easier when you keep playing games in a row” — and Lehner no doubt feels the same.

"They both want to play 60 games, 80 games maybe,” Colliton said. “That's part of the team. [Patrick Kane] wants to play 60 minutes. It's how it is. Ultimately, we want to make decisions that help the team win and part of that is keeping both guys fresh, keeping both guys playing at a high level and I think that's going to be a benefit for us as the season goes on."

It’s a good problem to have if you’re the Blackhawks, especially if Crawford and Lehner are at the top of their games at the same time like they are right now.

"It's great," Calvin de Haan said. "I think goaltending's the most important position. If you're not keeping the puck out of the net, you're not going to win a lot of games. But those guys are giving us a chance every night and it's really evident the past few weeks here."

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

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