Panarin deal shines spotlight on Blackhawks cap crunch

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It’s been a constant theme for the Chicago Blackhawks and general manager Stan Bowman in recent years: The salary cap crunch.

It has led to the Blackhawks being forced to trade away key components of their roster — players like Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw and Teuvo Teravainen to name a few — and relying on younger players with cheaper contracts to make the roster and help contribute to a contending team.

Once again this season, the Blackhawks are right up against the cap. And, unless they are able to move some things around in the offseason, they’ll be up against the cap again for the 2017-18 season — an issue that was once again emphasized Wednesday when news broke that Artemi Panarin signed a two-year bridge deal worth $6 million average annual value.

CapFriendly now has the Blackhawks committing $66.6 million to 15 players for next season. (As noted by Darren Dreger in the video above, the Blackhawks will have more than $50 million dedicated next season to just seven players: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa and Panarin.)

And it remains to be seen exactly where the salary cap will be for the 2017-18 campaign. Commissioner Gary Bettman said earlier this month that “…the cap could range from where it is now ($73 million) to a couple or so million up.”

That doesn’t leave much room for the Blackhawks, who have more than $42 million committed next season to nine forwards, including three — Tyler Motte, Ryan Hartman and Vinnie Hinostroza — still on their entry-level deals.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

The expansion draft could provide some relief, too, as the Vegas Golden Knights possibly could take either Marcus Kruger ($3.083 million) or Trevor van Riemsdyk ($825,000).

So there will be decisions to make going forward in order to keep the Hawks cap compliant, and another big name might have to be moved to accommodate Panarin’s new deal (though every high-priced player on the team has a no-movement clause). But keeping Panarin was the top priority, and the Hawks will have him for at least two more seasons.

How, exactly, will Bowman deal with another pending cap crunch? It remains a million dollar question.

Sheary’s agent — who’s also Dumoulin’s agent — hoping to avoid arbitration

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Conor Sheary‘s agent is hopeful that an arbitration hearing won’t be needed with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And that same agent has reason to be optimistic, since he’s also the agent for Brian Dumoulin, who settled at the last minute today.

“Each (case) is so different,” Andrew Gross told the Post-Gazette this morning. “Ultimately, though, team and player would like to avoid going in that room. It’s not a pleasant experience.”

Sheary’s hearing isn’t scheduled until Aug. 4. The 25-year-old forward is coming off a 53-point regular season. In his young NHL career, he’s already won two Stanley Cups.

That said, the Penguins can’t afford to break the bank on an extension. After all, a big reason for their success has been having players like Sheary on affordable deals — a necessity with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Kris Letang taking up so much cap space.

Sheary wasn’t all that productive in the 2017 playoffs either, scoring just two goals with five assists in 22 games, while finishing a team-worst minus-5 for the postseason.

“We’re prepared to go to arbitration,” Pens GM Jim Rutherford said last week.

Of course, Rutherford was also speaking about Dumoulin, and the two sides were able to reach an agreement on him.

You can probably expect a similar outcome with Sheary.

Just don’t bet the house on it.

Preds avoid arbitration with Austin Watson

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Another narrowly avoided arbitration to pass along.

The Nashville Predators have signed forward Austin Watson to a three-year, $3.3 million contract that will pay him $1 million next season, $1.1 million in 2018-19 and $1.2 million in 2019-20.

Watson’s hearing was scheduled for today.

From the press release:

Watson, 25 (1/13/92), set career highs in goals (5), assists (7), points (12), penalty minutes (99) and games played (77) during the 2016-17 season as he established himself as an integral member of the Nashville roster. The 6-foot-4, 204-pound winger then added four goals and nine points in 22 postseason contests as the Predators advanced to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Watson also appeared in 57 games for the Predators during the 2015-16 season, recording three goals and 10 points.

The Pittsburgh Penguins also avoided an arbitration hearing today by signing defenseman Brian Dumoulin to a six-year contract.

Spooner seeking $3.85 million in arbitration

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Ryan Spooner‘s arbitration hearing with the Boston Bruins is scheduled for Wednesday. And if it goes ahead, it could be a rather contentious one.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Spooner is seeking $3.85 million on a one-year deal, while the B’s are thinking almost half that at $2 million.

Spooner, a 25-year-old forward, will certainly be able to sell his offensive statistics. He had 49 points in 2015-16, then 39 points last season.

“Ryan’s a talented player,” said GM Don Sweeney, per CSNNE.com. “He’s had a lot of success. Our power play is better when he plays as well as he’s capable of playing, and he can really be a good complement to our group.”

But the knock on Spooner has always been his defensive play. The past two seasons, he’s a combined minus-17. Back in May, it was reported that the B’s were entertaining trade offers for him.

Spooner’s last contract paid him $1.9 million over two years.

Dumoulin agrees to six-year contract with Penguins

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Brian Dumoulin won’t need his arbitration hearing today.

The Pittsburgh Penguins announced this morning that the 25-year-old defenseman has agreed to terms on a six-year contract with a $4.1 million cap hit.

From the press release:

Dumoulin, 25, has been a key component to the Penguins’ back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, as he played in all 49 playoff games in that span, and recorded 14 points (3G-11A). In the 2017 playoffs, Dumoulin had an average ice time of 21:59 minutes, the most of any Penguins skater, and his plus-9 paced all team defenders. He assisted on Carl Hagelin‘s empty-net goal that sealed the 2-0 victory in the decisive Game 6 of the Cup Final against Nashville. 

Dumoulin is coming off of a contract that paid him just $800,000 in each of the past two seasons.

With Dumoulin signed, Pittsburgh now has five defenseman under contract for at least the next three seasons, the other four being Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, Olli Maatta, and Matt Hunwick.

The Pens still have one more arbitration case in forward Conor Sheary. His hearing is scheduled for Aug. 4.

Related: Without Letang, the ‘simple bunch’ gets it done for Penguins