When Artemi Panarin was traded by the Chicago Blackhawks this offseason, there were generally two sides to the argument. Some were optimistic over the team bringing back Brandon Saad, while others were pessimistic that the Blackhawks gave up a Calder Trophy-winning, 70-point-per-year player.
The trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus in exchange for Brandon Saad — with Tyler Motte and Anton Forsberg also switching sides — is still fresh, and it will take time to see if the Chicago Blackhawks made the right decision in trading away the sniping forward for the young power forward.
There will always be skeptics and naysayers, but let’s take a look at how the move has impacted each team early in the 2017-18 season.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus is trying to build off a great previous season, after scoring the most points in team history with 108 and finishing third in the Metropolitan Division.
The Blue Jackets were missing a few pieces, one being a true sniper that has scoring potential. Bringing in Panarin gave them a top-line winger who has both playmaking and sniping ability. Up-and-coming center Alexander Wennberg has continued improving over the last three seasons, and last year he put up his biggest point total with 13 goals and 59 points.
Wennberg had 46 assists last season, and having Panarin on his wing should only help unlock his true playmaking ability.
Da Windy City
On the right wing, the Jackets have another star winger in Cam Atkinson, a smaller player who is fast and has a good release. Last year, Atkinson had a career year in putting up 35 goals and 62 points.
With these two players, adding Panarin makes for a potent combo and could be the key for a successful top line. So far, the Blue Jackets are off to a 6-3-0 start and sit third in the Metropolitan Division. The players on the top line have combined for 18 points so far.
Panarin currently leads Columbus in scoring, accumulating nine points with only one of them being a goal. The Breadman also holds a 59.2 percent Corsi-for rating, which means almost 60 percent of the time Panarin is on the ice, Columbus is controlling the puck. While he has started this season as more of a playmaker than a true scorer, it is clear Panarin has had a positive impact on the Blue Jackets.
After two disappointing first-round postseason exits, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman vowed there would be changes. One of those was trading Panarin and bringing back fan favorite Saad.
Since Saad’s departure, the left wing seemed to be missing something. As we see Saad line up next to the captain, it looks as if the top line is coming together once again.
Saad has had a hot start, scoring a hat trick opening night, and he now has six goals and nine points through the first 10 games and owns a plus-5 rating. His Corsi-for rating is 52.7 percent, which is not terrible considering the questionable and still young defensive core the Blackhawks have.
Saad is one year younger than Panarin. I’m not saying that is a huge difference, but it could play a factor down the line.
By adding a solid top-line left winger, we should see a great impact on Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik. Toews has had some rough seasons over the last two years, trying to find chemistry with a multitude of wingers coming and going.
While the right side has been consistent, playing with either Panik or Marian Hossa, having a cemented left winger should see chemistry and point totals increase for the top line. While only seeing a small sample size so far, Toews has seen some improvement.
More from Analysis
- Chicago Blackhawks Winning- Temper Those Expectations
- Three Takeaways from the Blackhawks’ Win vs Vancouver
- Blackhawks: Why Derek King is the Right Coach moving forward
- Time for the Chicago Blackhawks to Swap Dach for Toews
- Blackhawks: Caleb and Seth Jones together in Chicago is great to see
As fellow Blackhawk Up writer Tim Martens notes in his latest post, Toews at this point the last two seasons had five points. It may be a small improvement, but the captain is currently sitting on three goals and eight points.
Panik on the other hand is coming off his best season in the NHL, posting 22 goals and 44 points. Through the first 10 games, Panik has contributed five goals and eight points. Panik currently has a 52.9 percent Corsi-for rating which if it stays will be the best mark in his NHL time.
He has found chemistry with Toews, consistency to his game and is not afraid to throw the body. He has shown he is a better player when playing on the top line. When he dropped to the third line last year, he went into a scoring drought.
Together, the top line has had a very positive start, posting 25 points. There was speculation that bringing Saad back would revitalize Toews, and so far it seems it has.
Having two power forward-type players who can win board battles and play in the dirty areas will give Toews the freedom to handle the puck and take a few more shots. Saad and Panik winning the board battles and playing gritty should also lessen wear and tear on the captain.
Looking at how Saad and Panarin have helped their teams, at this point it is hard to see a clear winner or loser in the trade.
One advantage the ‘Hawks have is the contract that Saad carries. As capfriendly.com shows, Saad carries a $6 million contract through the 2020-21 season, whereas Panarin is the same cap hit but only locked up through next season. With the continuous cap struggles the Blackhawks go through every year, having a longer set cap hit for Saad is a definite advantage.
Even though there may not be a clear winner in the trade, both teams have added a piece that can help them improve their chances to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup at the end of the year.