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For Chicago Blackhawks, Artemi Panarin’s Interest Irrelevant Right Now

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NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 17: Chicago Blackhawks left wing Artemi Panarin (72) is shown during game three of Round One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Nashville Predators and the Chicago Blackhawks, held on April 17, 2017, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 17: Chicago Blackhawks left wing Artemi Panarin (72) is shown during game three of Round One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Nashville Predators and the Chicago Blackhawks, held on April 17, 2017, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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Good news, Chicago Blackhawks fans: Artemi Panarin would be open to returning to the team he started his NHL career with. On the flip side, why does this even matter right now?

It’s important to report any news surrounding a professional sports team, especially during the offseason. That quiet time is when stories dry up, so pretty much anything that can stir the pulse gets written about.

Last week, The Athletic’s Scott Powers informed the Blackhawks universe that former team member Artemi Panarin would be open to rejoining the club in the future. He’s presently on the second and final year of a bridge contract given to him by the Blackhawks before he was traded to Columbus last offseason.

On the surface, this is a cool thing for Blackhawks fans to hear. Panarin posted some awesome statistics in two seasons with the Blackhawks, playing well off the talents of Patrick Kane at a time when the Blackhawks’ offense was not in a good place.

But when one thinks about this for more than a few seconds, the realization sets in: This does not matter one bit to the Chicago Blackhawks at this time.

Words don’t always equal decisions

Plenty of people say plenty of things when it comes to jobs. I’d do this. I’d consider that. You can count on me for that role. And — big surprise — things don’t always happen according to words.

I have no doubt Panarin is legitimately interested in returning to Chicago. He really seemed to enjoy playing for the Blackhawks, specifically alongside Kane. He also expressed legitimate unhappiness at his surprise trade last year.

There are a couple of reasons none of this matters, though, beyond the fact Panarin can say everything in the world and do the exact opposite.

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First of all, the Blackhawks are in no position to afford Panarin right now. That was the reason they got rid of him in the first place: A long-term contract for Panarin would cost the Blackhawks more than they could handle, even as the salary cap goes up.

That’s why the Blackhawks eventually settled on giving him a bridge deal and re-evaluating. And even that was too much of a cap hit for the Blackhawks to handle.

Panarin had a very strong first year in Columbus, and there’s no apparent signs showing he’ll slow down. Pretty much the only way Panarin becomes legitimately affordable to the Blackhawks after this year is if he’s absolutely awful in Year 2 with the Blue Jackets. We’re talking like five points in 82 games awful.

Secondly — and we’ve seen this crop up with the Max Pacioretty rumors this offseason — the Blackhawks really don’t need Panarin as much as they need other entities right now.

Don’t get me wrong; Panarin has proven to be an offensive weapon unlike many others, especially on the Blackhawks’ current roster. Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz are trending upward, but only Kane is at that level right now.

That being said, it’s very obvious the Blackhawks need NHL-ready defensemen and some goaltending depth well before they need Panarin back in the fold. Put Panarin on the current roster and the Blackhawks are, what, a wild-card team that turns into an easy out for the Predators? That might be a kind analysis.

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I don’t want to burst the collective bubble of Blackhawks fans, given this team hasn’t given them much to be happy about this offseason. But Panarin saying he’d be open to a return to Chicago is so irrelevant right now that it’s barely news during an actual busy period in the NHL.

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