Chicago Blackhawks: What Do You Think of Anisimov Extension?

By Matt Barbato

The Chicago Blackhawks have been busy in the early hours of free agency. GM Stan Bowman was forced to trade star winger Brandon Saad Tuesday afternoon after the two sides weren’t even close to reaching a contract extension. He acquired Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Jeremy Morin and Corey Tropp for Saad.

Bowman admitted he had been trying to acquire Anisimov for a while and showed it by locking him up to a five-year, $22.5 million contract less than a day after getting him. The 27-year-old two-way center helps permanently solidify Chicago’s center depth. He will make $4.55 million annually and could play on the second line with the likes of Patrick Kane or Teuvo Teravainen.

The drawback to Anisimov is he hasn’t stuffed the stat sheet much during his seven-year career. The former second-round pick’s highest point total of his career is 44 points in the 2010-11 season with the New York Rangers. He set his career high for goals two seasons ago with 22 goals in Columbus.

But, similar to captain Jonathan Toews, Anisimov will not be making his money just on the stat sheet alone. Anisimov is reliable in the faceoff dot, can kill penalties and is a solid possession player. According to War on Ice, Anisimov had 213 neutral zone starts and 235 defensive zone starts, which showed head coach Todd Richards’ confidence in Anisimov to win crucial draws. Anisimov won only 43.9 percent of his faceoffs last season, but that number should tick up to around his career average of 50 percent.

Anisimov’s Corsi numbers also hover around 50 percent, which shows that he can be an efficient and steady possession player.

Anisimov’s role will gain clarity as the offseason shakes out. The Blackhawks now have options at center with Anisimov, Teravainen and Dano all capable of playing up the middle. The Hawks are also expected to re-sign Marcus Kruger to a deal that would put them over the salary cap.

Many thought the Saad trade meant Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell would return next season, but this might not be the case. According to Spotrac, the Blackhawks have about $670,000 in cap space after Anisimov’s extension. Add in the Kruger signing and the Hawks could be as much as $1.33 million over the cap. Bowman has until the start of the season to shed that excess cap, which means Sharp and Bickell are still candidates to be moved.

Anisimov and Dano could become important players in Chicago, but neither of them replaces the five-tool talent of Saad. What do you think of the Anisimov signing?