ST. LOUIS – Stan Bowman wasn’t sweating the Blackhawks’ money situation as rookie Artemi Panarin neared performance bonuses at the end of the regular season. After all, he got the guy because of his potential success.
“It’s always sort of puzzled me why people look at that as a bad thing,” Bowman said on Wednesday morning. “He’s come in and done something that’s maybe not unheard of but certainly you haven’t seen a first-year player come in and finish that high in the standings for points. And also, you look at the impact he had on our team, we wouldn’t be where we are today without his contributions. So I’m happy for him. I mean we were certainly rooting for him, not against him.”
Bowman talked on various subjects on Wednesday, several hours before the Blackhawks face the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of their first-round series. The big topic was Panarin, that bonus money, and that bonus money’s effect on the 2016-17 salary cap that is still unknown.
Panarin was a massive contributor to the Blackhawks this season, his 30 goals the most for a Blackhawks rookie since Eric Daze reached that in 1995-96. After finishing as well as he started — Panarin had two goals and an assist in the Blackhawks’ regular-season finale vs. Columbus — he earned $2.595 in bonuses.
While Panarin has been a boon to the Blackhawks, he’s been a bane to the opposition. Linemate Patrick Kane was already tough enough to contain. Now throw in Panarin. St.Louis defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said you have to defend Panarin the same way you do Kane, but you also have to keep in mind how one feeds off the other.
“What they’ve found with each other is that, when you take away their time and space one seems to be supporting the other. One’s close and they make those great little plays with each other,” Shattenkirk said. “Panarin’s been someone who’s caught a lot of people off guard this year. No one knew what to expect out of him but he’s a phenomenal player. He has just a great one-timer from that off side and seems to find those quiet areas that he can get it off. He’s not as crafty as Kane is, but he can certainly make you hurt 1-on1 at the wrong time if you get caught sleeping.”
As far as the offseason math, the salary-cap fun that those bonuses will inflict: Bowman will worry about that this offseason. Well, let’s be honest, Bowman is probably already thinking of the offseason scenarios and cap. It’s what he does. But as far as Panarin goes, Bowman is thrilled to pay the forward who was a critical part of the Blackhawks’ season.
Now to see what Panarin can do in the playoffs. Panarin recently said via his interpreter Stan Stiopkin that he doesn’t know what to expect in his first NHL postseason. Considering how he’s handled so many new things already — new country, new language, etc. — you’d think he would adapt pretty quickly to this, too.
Panarin earned some extra cash for his great regular season. Considering how much he helped the Blackhawks get to this point, they’re happy to pay for it.
“He came in here, he took a chance on us. He had a lot of options. I think we owed it to him to put him in the best position to succeed,” Bowman said. “And you could tell from the beginning of the season when he scored the first goal in the first game there for our team and there was some magic all year long.”