Artemi Panarin has made his contract demands known, and they sound very familiar
As training camp kicks into gear for the Chicago Blackhawks, general manager Stan Bowman and Co. are busy fielding questions about how the future looks for the team. While there’s plenty to worry about for the immediate future, the Blackhawks also have long-term concerns.
One of those emerged a bit more today when a source told the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc that Artemi Panarin has made his contract demands known.
Panarin, who is on the final year of a deal that pays him $812,500, is reportedly seeking a six-year, $6 million/year deal in the future. With the Blackhawks, that would make him and fourth-highest paid player on the team, annually, behind Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook, and tied with Corey Crawford.
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Remember the last guy who wanted such a contract?
So not considering the logistics of the Blackhawks getting such a contract to work, this situation immediately brings to mind another free agent. In the 2015 offseason, Brandon Saad sought a very similar contract from the Blackhawks. This came after it was rumored he might take a hometown discount to stick with the club.
Obviously that didn’t happen. As a result, the Blackhawks dished Saad to Columbus in a deal that brought Artem Anisimov to Chicago and necessitated acquiring Panarin from the KHL.
Saad wound up getting a six-year deal worth $36 million — exactly what Panarin is looking for. If anything, this proves at least one team is willing to pay pretty much any price for pretty much any player. And that would go double for Panarin, the league’s reigning rookie of the year.
The only thing that could really throw that off is if Panarin had an awful 2016-17 or was injured for most of the season.
What does it mean for the Blackhawks?
So the Blackhawks are obviously one of the most cash-strapped teams in the NHL. As a result, there’s little chance the Blackhawks are going to be able to meet Panarin’s demands, especially at this point in time.
There’s no demand for Bowman to get a deal done with Panarin immediately. However, you know he’ll want to get something accomplished before the 2016-17 season ends. He isn’t going to want Panarin to go to free agency if it can be avoided.
So the next issue is trying to get Panarin on a deal that allows the Blackhawks to field a Stanley Cup contender in 2017-18. Here’s what the Blackhawks have on the books for that year:
Patrick Kane: $10.5M
Jonathan Toews: $10.5M
Marian Hossa: $5.275M
Artem Anisimov: $4.550M
Marcus Kruger: $3.083M
Brent Seabrook: $6.875M
Duncan Keith: $5.538M
Niklas Hjalmarsson: $4.1M
Trevor van Riemsdyk: $825k
Corey Crawford: $6M
Those are guys who are essentially guaranteed to be part of the 2017-18 team and what they carry as a cap hit. That amounts to about $57.25 million for five forwards, four defensemen and a goaltender. That’s obviously a problem, regardless of whether or not the salary cap ceiling rises above the $73 million it’s at this season.
So the Blackhawks are going to look to give Panarin a bridge deal. A bridge deal is essentially a two- or three-year deal that keeps a player around at a lower cost in anticipation the player gets a long-term deal afterward.
It’s not going to be anything like a $6 million-a-year deal Panarin is looking for, but more like a $3 or $4 million contract. The Blackhawks will have to be really careful with how much they spend on such a deal, however, as they’ll be looking at a large portion of their salary cap used on the 10 players above and Panarin while needing to fill 23 roster spots.
So does it make sense?
That’s a question only Bowman can answer. A lot of things could change during this season. As previously mentioned, Panarin could have a rough season or be injured throughout it. Additionally, Hossa could decide he’s close to retirement at some point this season and alter the salary cap situation.
At the end of the day, what Bowman decides to do with Panarin will boil down to his plans for the short-term and long-term futures of the Blackhawks, as well as if he’s able to get a deal done prior to free agency’s opening.
Blackhawks fans should be concerned with Panarin’s contract demands, but confident that Bowman will be able to make it work for the Blackhawks.