NASHVILLE – For Stan Bowman, there wasn’t much doubt on this one. When it came to Artemi Panarin, the Blackhawks general manager knew the deal would come.
The latest player who said he loved and wanted to stay with Chicago did just that, as Panarin agreed to a two-year, $12-million deal. Bowman said patience paid off in these negotiations.
“They don’t always come together when you first start the negotiations but I was confident from the beginning that we were going to be able to get something done," Bowman said. "But you have to do your work and put the time in and obviously I have to commend Artemi and his representatives for … clearly they want to be here and they wanted to be part of what we have here in Chicago and when that happens that’s when deals get made.”
Bowman signing Panarin for two more seasons was an impressive addition. The inevitable subtraction, however, looms. When Panarin’s contract kicks in next season, so will his $6-million cap hit. Actually it’ll be more than that, since he’ll likely hit $2.57 million in performance bonuses again this season and those bonuses come out of the 2017-18 cap. So with that, somebody (or some bodies) will have to go.
Bowman didn’t want to talk much about how this all works cap- and roster-wise next season, other than to say, “we’ve been doing that for months now… it’s a process we’re always going to be facing.”
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According to CapFriendly.com, the Blackhawks have more than $66 million committed to 15 players. The cap, which is at $73 million for this season, probably won’t go up much for the next one. So yes, it’ll be another offseason of salary shedding.
Part of that could be done with the expansion draft.
Eight Blackhawks are protected (Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Corey Crawford). Among those not protected, Marcus Kruger has the biggest cap hit ($3.08 million). There’s also Trevor van Riemsdyk ($825,000) and Ryan Hartman ($863,333). According to CapFriendly.com, Hartman needs to play in only eight more games to meet the expansion-draft exposure requirement.
The Blackhawks will likely need to make moves beyond the expansion draft. Trading Corey Crawford would be foolish. You can argue Scott Darling is about ready for a starting job but who backs him up? The team’s goaltending is already shallow as it is.
As great as Marian Hossa looked prior to getting hurt, it’s doubtful another team will want the soon-to-be 38-year-old forward’s remaining contract (four years, cap hit of $5.275 million each). And keep in mind several Blackhawks have no movement clauses in which they decide if they go, and where.
With the Panarin deal, the Blackhawks took care of their immediate priority. Another series of cap-shedding moves is on the horizon. But on Thursday, Bowman was focused on who the Blackhawks gained, not who they could lose.
“My suggestion would be to try to enjoy the fact that we’ve got a great player who is a big part of our team,” Bowman said. “He wants to be here in Chicago, he loves playing with his teammates and he’s having a lot of fun and scoring a lot of goals. That’s really the thing that we’re excited about. The other stuff, we’ll make it work. The time to dissect that is not right now but we’ll get there eventually.”