Chicago Blackhawks forward Artem Anisimov is exceeding expectations on offense so far, but that could be an issue later
While yes, he is tied for the league-lead in goals with Sidney Crosby and Patrik Laine with eight goals so far, it’s the lead nonetheless. But there is no denying that Anisimov’s hot start to the year is happily unexpected and at the same time hauntingly problematic.
It can’t be said enough, Anisimov’s production is great and a big key to why the Blackhawks are currently riding a six-game winning streak and are at the top of the Central Division and tied for the lead in the NHL’s Western Conference. The problem lies with if the production will continue for Anisimov on the current pace.
Anisimov’s long-term impact on Blackhawks
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Currently, Anisimov is on pace to lead the league in scoring with 107 points. Pretty sure that will not be the case when the season wraps up in April. But what if he finishes the year scoring a point per game or better? Finishes with 80, 85, 90 points? Makes the NHL All-Star game? Is in the running for the Art Ross? What happens?
No one is sure because coming into this season, Anisimov hasn’t finished a season with more than 44 points and last season, his first with Chicago, was the first time he topped the 40-point mark since the 2010-11 season when he was with the New York Rangers.
When the Blackhawks acquired Anisimov in the Brandon Saad trade, he was signed immediately to a five-year contract extension that takes effect this season. His cap-hit rose from $3.28 Million to $4.55 million and will stay at that mark until the extension ends after the 2020-21 season.
Or at least that’s what is supposed to happen because Anisimov is supposed to be a 40-45 point, second-line center. What happens when Anismov puts up numbers in a season like Crosby? Out-scores Jonathan Toews? What happens to that extension?
Is Anisimov really supposed to sit back after a potential season like that and say, “Yep, that’s fine. I’m good with my pay grade.” Like any professional athlete would do, he’d look for his cash-in.
The Blackhawks are already a perennial salary cap crunch team and a big 2016-17 season could lead to Anisimov out-pricing or handcuffing the Blackhawks with a potential contract re-working or another extension looking to secure the rest of his career with the Blackhawks, i.e. Marian Hossa.
Anisimov has a no-movement clause this year and next, and a modified no-trade clause in 2018-19 before being open to movement beginning in 2019. So it could mean roster changes if Arty wants his cash-in moment.
Looking at the rest of the roster
What would the Blackhawks do with Artemi Panarin needing a new, big contract?
Marcus Kruger could be involved in trade rumors. Again.
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What do they do with Richard Panik? He is also having a big 2016-17 season. Could the Blackhawks re-sign him?
What happens with Scott Darling? He wants to be an NHL starter and will have a big pay raise coming next year, can Chicago keep him?
The Blackhawks lose Rob Scuderi‘s $1.13m retained Cap hit next season, would that be enough space?
Will the NHL’s Salary cap go up or down?
Are the Blackhawks going to acquire another veteran player for their magical Stanley Cup run again?
AND WHAT ABOUT THE EXPANSION DRAFT?
All things to be considered and thank heavens they are Stan Bowman’s questions to answer and not mine.
Unless Anisimov fizzles off into his normal production rate or has a big year and wants to go the route of Brian Campbell and give Chicago a break when it comes to contract talks, he could be a divisive figure for Chicago. Yes, everyone wants everybody to score and produce as much as possible, but if Anisimov continues on his current pace, it could be a big problem.