A couple weeks ago, the Chicago Blackhawks extended coach Joel Quenneville for an additional three years. Then, earlier today, General Manager Stan Bowman was inked through the year 2021. Two of the biggest off-ice pieces for the Blackhawks being under longer-term deals was certainly great news for the organization and fan base.
When Bowman spoke with reporters earlier today, he dropped a line that should be music to the ears of current Blackhawks, Quenneville and Chicago fans.
Artemi Panarin has had a breakthrough first season in the NHL lining up alongside Patrick Kane, who is having a career season himself. While Panarin is still trying to learn some of the North American game’s ins and outs, he led all rookies with 17 goals, 29 assists and 46 points ahead of Tuesday’s action, making him a likely Calder Trophy favorite. Panarin has been a critical part of a second line that has often carried the Blackhawks’ entire offensive threat this season.
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While the quote about Kane being angry if Panarin — who is currently on a two-year deal with a cap hit of just $812,500 each season — wasn’t extended this summer has some humor, Bowman was probably speaking seriously to some extent. Kane has played alongside some talented forwards during his time in Chicago, but never has he played alongside one who is pretty much a carbon copy of himself. (Teuvo Teravainen would be the closest comparison, and he and Kane haven’t played with one another frequently). The two have obvious chemistry in spite of a language barrier that can only be broken down over time, and it’d be crazy for Bowman to not try extending Panarin in the future.
Well, mostly crazy. With Panarin’s success, no matter how much of it can be attributed to Kane’s league-leading season, he’s going to be due for a pretty substantial raise. With the Blackhawks’ salary cap situation already a year-to-year mess, that certainly doesn’t bode well for Bowman in trying to set things up moving forward. Does this mean Bowman will try to keep Panarin on his initial deal through the next season while trying to work something out during the 2016-17 season? That remains to be seen, but it sounds as though Bowman would be more comfortable getting Panarin locked up to a longer-term deal after this current season concludes.
How should the Blackhawks approach a potential extension for Panarin? Let us know in the comments.