5 Forwards the Blackhawks Should Be Targeting in Free Agency

By Tony Gianares
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 31: Artemi Panarin
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 31: Artemi Panarin /
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Artemi Panarin

Artemi Panarin — where do we even begin? This has to be the most obvious case of the one that got away. Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin were the Blackhawks’ version of Batman and Robin. The Blackhawks’ dynamic duo was destined for greatness until their time was abruptly cut short in very ugly fashion after the 2016-17 season ended.

Bowman would sign Panarin to a 2-year bridge deal at $6 mil AAV, and then, immediately trade him to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Brandon Saad. Saad is another perfect example of Bowman’s M.O. — trading for former players and watching that trade blow up in his face.

In 2 short, but sweet seasons with the Blackhawks, Panarin put up some big-time numbers alongside Patrick Kane. In 2015-16, he put up 77 points (30G, 47A) in 80 games with an 8 ± rating, which was enough to win the Calder Cup. In 2016-17, he posted 74 points (31 G, 43A) in 82 games with an 18 ± rating, while helping the Blackhawks finish with the best record in the Western Conference.

Since joining the Blue Jackets in 2017, Panarin has held his own quite well. His production has actually increased the past two seasons. In 2017-18, Panarin posted 82 points (27G, 55A) in 81 games with a 23 ± rating. While in 2018-19, he tallied 87 points (28G, 59A) in 79 games with a 14 ± rating.

One thing that I don’t quite understand is the whole “poor playoff performer” narrative, which has been blown out of proportion. The Blue Jackets got into the playoffs as a wild card team and swept a Stanley Cup favorite, Tampa Bay Lightning. Columbus is currently onto the 2nd round of the playoffs against the Boston Bruins. Panarin has had a nice showing in the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. Through 6 games, he has 9 points (4G, 5A) with a 3 ± rating.


Here are his career playoff stats which also disprove that playoff narrative.

This offseason, Stan Bowman can get a mulligan on arguably his worst move ever as Blackhawks’ GM. Of course, it’s going to cost him though, as Artemi Panarin is projected to be somewhere in the $9.5-11 mil AAV range. The New York Rangers, New York Islanders, and Florida Panthers have all been rumored to be participants in the Artemi Panarin sweepstakes.

It might take a little persuasion from his old buddy, Patrick Kane, and a nice chunk of change to get Panarin back in a Blackhawks’ sweater. The thought of a potential 1st line of Panarin-Toews-Kane has me drooling.