Blackhawks

As he closes in on them, Artemi Panarin not focused on potential bonuses

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USA TODAY

As he closes in on them, Artemi Panarin not focused on potential bonuses

For the second straight season, Artemi Panarin is producing offensively at a level that has put him among the NHL's best goal-scorers.

And for the second straight season, it may come at a price, something the Blackhawks are certainly willing to pay if it continues to have an impact on winning games.

With a goal in Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins, Panarin has now lit the lamp in four straight, and has accumulated 17 points in his last 17 games, vaulting into the top-10 in scoring with 72 points.

If he remains there at season's end, he will earn a $1.725 million bonus that will count against next year's salary cap.

He can hit it a few different ways as well, including top-10 in points-per-game, goals or assists; top-5 in voting for the Selke Trophy, Rocket Richard Trophy, or Hart Trophy; winning the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP or being voted onto the first or second postseason All-Star teams.

It's something GM Stan Bowman — and Blackhawks fans — has certainly been monitoring over the course of the year. But Panarin? Not so much.

"Actually, I don't think about this at all," Panarin said through an interpreter following Sunday's game. "I'm trying to play my best all the time and until yesterday I didn't know how many points I had. I was arguing a little bit with my grandpa over the phone and he started talking about points again. I don't think about that, so I'm not going to call him today."

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In his rookie year, Panarin ranked tied for ninth in the league with 77 points, which helped him trigger those bonuses and capture the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie. 

While he's been through this before, it doesn't exactly make it any easier to deal with.

"Last season I didn’t really have a standard, I didn’t have a goal to reach," Panarin said. "So it was a little bit easier. This season I already know how many points I can get, so it’s a little bit harder to not focus on my points, but I’m trying."

With three games remaining on the schedule, Joel Quenneville will likely look to rest his top players for a game or two after capturing the division title and securing home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference players.

But he may handle Panarin's situation differently.

"I think sometimes you try to help the guys out in those type of situations if you can," Quenneville said of those chasing performance-based bonuses like Panarin. "You’re still playing games, you’re trying to win and sometimes the score dictates the ability to do that. We’ll play it accordingly and see how that plays out."

So while his grandpa and everyone else not named Panarin continue to keep tabs on the scoring race in the final week of the 2016-17 campaign, Panarin himself will continue trying to block out the distractions and focus on his on-ice play.

The rest will take care of itself.

"Personally for me, I think it's a little bit distracting," Panarin said. "I'm playing better whenever I get on the ice and I focus on goals, I try to shoot, and then the points come. If I get on the ice and think about my points, bad luck happens. I don’t want to think about it."

Are Canadiens eyeing possible trade with Blackhawks?

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USA Today

Are Canadiens eyeing possible trade with Blackhawks?

The NHL trade deadline isn’t for another two-plus months, but this is an important time of year because all 31 teams have a pretty good idea of what its roster is as the standings take shape going into the 2020 calendar year. 

Management groups across the league are starting to gather more information and dig deeper on players they could be interested in ahead of the Feb. 24 deadline, whether it’s a buyer or a seller.

One frequent observer in Chicago has been the Montreal Canadiens, who have heavily scouted both the Blackhawks and Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League. Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has been spotted multiple times at the United Center this season, including Sunday, and has made several trips to Rockford as well.

It’s believed the Canadiens are searching for a left-handed shot defenseman and that’s a position the Blackhawks have a surplus of. Erik Gustafsson, most notably, is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and there haven’t been any talks about a possible extension to this point, according to a source.

With Drake Caggiula (concussion protocol), Duncan Keith (groin) and Andrew Shaw (concussion protocol) sidelined, the Blackhawks have had the opportunity to evaluate some of their prospects at the NHL level recently.

Dennis Gilbert and Anton Wedin have gotten several looks already, and same with Adam Boqvist and Matthew Highmore, both of whom were recalled on Monday ahead of the Blackhawks' three-game road trip. Dylan Sikura was called up over the weekend and made his season debut on Sunday against the Arizona Coyotes.

It’s too early to speculate what the Blackhawks’ trade-deadline plans may be because it will likely be determined by where they sit in the standings come February, but it’s worth monitoring going forward, as we discussed on the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast. The Blackhawks and Canadiens are each five points out of a playoff spot in their respective conferences.

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Why are the Blackhawks so inconsistent?

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Why are the Blackhawks so inconsistent?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Charlie Roumeliotis and Nick Gismondi discuss the coaches getting involved in practice (0:40), the latest roster moves (2:45), Dennis Gilbert standing up for Alex DeBrincat (7:15), Robin Lehner's shootout struggles (13:45), the Blackhawks' inconsistency woes (17:45), performance vs. results (23:50) and the importance of the next eight games (27:35).

Listen to the full episode here or in the embedded player below:

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.