Artemi Panarin continues to pile up the points for the Chicago Blackhawks. The 25-year-old winger scored twice with one assist in last night’s 5-4 win over the Islanders in Brooklyn.
It’s a good thing for the ‘Hawks, who are now 20-8-4, six points clear of Minnesota for first place in the Central Division. Panarin’s 13 goals are the third most on the team, behind Marian Hossa (16) and Artem Anisimov (14). He’s also tied with Patrick Kane for the team lead in points (29).
There’s just one catch — the more Panarin scores, the stronger his position gets in contract negotiations with the club. He’s a pending restricted free agent, and as everyone knows, the ‘Hawks are not blessed with a ton of cap space.
Panarin reportedly wants at least $6 million per season on a long-term deal.
“Things are still moving along,” his agent, Tom Lynn, recently wrote in an email to The Athletic.
But no deal yet.
The Blackhawks have been through this before, of course. GM Stan Bowman once vowed to keep Brandon Saad in Chicago for “years to come,” but ultimately chose to trade the young, goal-scoring winger to Columbus.
To keep Panarin, Bowman could try and clear cap space by trading a player like Marcus Kruger, but the way things ended with Saad, it’s not out of the question that Panarin gets dealt. After all, the ‘Hawks did just draft a talented, young winger in Alex DeBrincat, who already has 30 goals in 28 games for the OHL’s Erie Otters this season.
And besides, it’s not like the ‘Hawks lost out big when they sent Saad to the Blue Jackets. That’s how they ended up with Anisimov, who immediately, and superbly, solved their second-line center problem.
So until Panarin is locked up, Bowman will consider all his options. Obviously, the ‘Hawks would prefer to keep the player — and try to relax, ‘Hawks fans, that’s probably what they’ll do — but in a cap world, sometimes tough decisions do have to be made.