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Panarin deal shines spotlight on Blackhawks cap crunch

Reigning Rookie of the Year, Artemi Panarin has agreed to a bridge deal with the Blackhawks for two years, $12 million.

It’s been a constant theme for the Chicago Blackhawks and general manager Stan Bowman in recent years: The salary cap crunch.

It has led to the Blackhawks being forced to trade away key components of their roster -- players like Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw and Teuvo Teravainen to name a few -- and relying on younger players with cheaper contracts to make the roster and help contribute to a contending team.

Once again this season, the Blackhawks are right up against the cap. And, unless they are able to move some things around in the offseason, they’ll be up against the cap again for the 2017-18 season -- an issue that was once again emphasized Wednesday when news broke that Artemi Panarin signed a two-year bridge deal worth $6 million average annual value.

CapFriendly now has the Blackhawks committing $66.6 million to 15 players for next season. (As noted by Darren Dreger in the video above, the Blackhawks will have more than $50 million dedicated next season to just seven players: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa and Panarin.)

And it remains to be seen exactly where the salary cap will be for the 2017-18 campaign. Commissioner Gary Bettman said earlier this month that "...the cap could range from where it is now ($73 million) to a couple or so million up.”

That doesn’t leave much room for the Blackhawks, who have more than $42 million committed next season to nine forwards, including three -- Tyler Motte, Ryan Hartman and Vinnie Hinostroza -- still on their entry-level deals.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

The expansion draft could provide some relief, too, as the Vegas Golden Knights possibly could take either Marcus Kruger ($3.083 million) or Trevor van Riemsdyk ($825,000).

So there will be decisions to make going forward in order to keep the Hawks cap compliant, and another big name might have to be moved to accommodate Panarin’s new deal (though every high-priced player on the team has a no-movement clause). But keeping Panarin was the top priority, and the Hawks will have him for at least two more seasons.

How, exactly, will Bowman deal with another pending cap crunch? It remains a million dollar question.