It’s easy to get excited about a player that can outscore a teammate like Ilya Kovalchuk at the age of 23, but just how good will Artemi Panarin be when he makes the jump from the KHL’s St. Petersburg SKA to Chicago’s organization?
“We’re trying to be patient with the expectations because he’s coming to a new country, learning the language. Everything is new to him,” Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman told CSN Chicago. “I always try to tell people, imagine you go to Russia and you’re expected to just jump in to a new culture and be a superstar right away. There will be a little adjustment there but he has special ability. It’s fun to think of the possibilities there.”
It certainly is fun to think of the possibilities. Patrick Kane hasn’t seen anything more than highlights when it comes to Panarin, but he can’t help but admit that it will be “pretty scary” if the KHL star can live up to expectations. Meanwhile, Panarin’s former SKA teammate, Viktor Tikhonov, who was also signed by Chicago is predicting that “Blackhawks fans are going to absolutely love him.”
Chicago’s decision to dip into the KHL for talent likely came partially out of necessity because its difficult cap situation lends itself to replenishing the team’s depth through less conventional means. The Blackhawks were also active when it came to recruiting undrafted college talent this summer, luring the highly touted Kyle Baun back in March.
The Blackhawks now have a few of new X-Factors that might make an impact in the coming season, but it’s likely that none will be watched more intently than Panarin, even if it’s reasonable to expect there to be an adjustment period.
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
Tyler Seguin is supporting Patriots quarterback Tom Brady following his Deflategate suspension. (Dallas Morning News)
If each team had its own Mount Rushmore, who would be on them? (New York Post)
Miles Koules looks to Liam O’Brien for inspiration as the undrafted forward aims to fight his way onto the Washington Capitals’ roster. (CSN Washington)
Corey Crawford brought the Stanley Cup to his old high school. (Puck Daddy)
Jeremy Roenick expects Jakub Voracek to continue to excel after setting a new career high with 81 points in 82 games last season. (CSN Philly)
Viktor Tikhonov, who is making the move from the KHL to Chicago Blackhawks, sees “pluses and minuses” to being a part of a famous hockey lineage. (Chicago Tribune)
You can’t read too much into development camp, but it seems Pavel Zacha couldn’t have made a better impression on Devils GM Ray Shero.
“I thought he was fantastic,” Shero told the Bergen Record. “That was the feedback we gave him today. I think that was from the entire staff. Very professional, very mature. He roomed with Damon Severson this week and they were really good together, but I think Pavel passed that on as well in terms of getting to know everybody here whether it was a draft pick or a tryout or just really dealing with people. So, I thought he did a real good job on and off the ice.”
Zacha also impressed John Hynes with his work ethic. The bench boss also noted that he’s “very coachable.”
The 18-year-old forward was taken with the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Although expectations always have to be tempered when talking about a player that young, the hope is that he’ll eventually play a big role on a Devils’ team that has ranked in the bottom-five in goals per game for the last three seasons.
He might even make the team out of training camp, but for that to even be possible he needs to sign an entry-level contract in the not too distant future. That’s because he’s tied to the Czech Republic squad Liberec and there’s a Aug. 18 deadline to get players that are under contract in Europe signed in order for them to be eligible to play in the NHL next season.
As it is the Devils will have to pay a $100,000 transfer fee because they didn’t get his deal done before the first deadline on July 15.
That being said, Shero said there haven’t been any “red flags” in the contract talks.
Related: Get to know a draft pick — Pavel Zacha
There are always going to be solid unrestricted free agents that have trouble finding a contract that lives up to expectations, but even in that context this year feels different, according to one longtime agent.
“It’s tough,” the agent told the Columbus Dispatch. “There are plenty of teams interested in adding a player, but they don’t have (salary cap) room. It’s just not there.
“So either they’re trying to make moves to accomodate that, or they’re waiting for the market to adjust. There’s plenty of time. It’s the middle of July. But it’s been really difficult for a lot of guys this summer.”
Thirteen teams have less than $5 million in remaining cap space, according to General Fanager. That number doesn’t include the New York Rangers, which still needs to re-sign RFA Derek Stepan, or the Los Angeles Kings, which might be in limbo as they wait to see how the contract situations with Slava Voynov and Mike Richards play out. So it’s not hard to argue that half the league has little to no cap space remaining. Of course, that doesn’t even start to factor in teams that are expected to stay significantly below the ceiling due to their own internal budgets, rebuilding strategy, or both.
Meanwhile, there are 22 UFAs remaining that came with a cap hit of at least $3 million last season.
There are of course going to be more noteworthy signings, but for teams that have space and the flexibility to add salary, this is a potentially great opportunity to improve their squad at a reduced price. We also might see more salary dumping trades before the 2015-16 campaign starts.
Related: There are some interesting players left on the UFA market
Expectations are nothing new to Chicago Blackhawks stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, but even for them next season might be different.
In all likelihood, they will enter the campaign as the top two players from a salary cap perspective thanks to their matching eight-year, $84 million contracts kicking in. That pay raise from their previous five-year, $31.5 million deals combined with a smaller cap increase than expected has squeezed the defending Stanley Cup champions, leading to them parting ways with Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, and Brandon Saad over the summer.
None of that is to suggest that Kane and Toews aren’t worth top dollar after leading Chicago to three Stanley Cup champions, but they are aware that the expectations thrust upon them will only increase with their salary.
“As soon as the next season starts everyone tends to forget about what happened last year and it’s time to go to work again,” Toews told the Chicago Tribune. “We’ve shown we can do that and we know given the fact we just lost … important teammates and the focus is on us and our contract that there is more pressure than ever.”
Kane has thought about it a bit this summer too and realizes that that he will be expected to “live up to that contract.”
The good news from Chicago’s perspective is that the duo has been able to step up in the past under pressure, so it’s not unreasonable to believe that they will be able to rise to the occasion again. That being said, they’ve never single handily won anything for Chicago nor can they do so going forward. A big part of the Blackhawks’ strength has been their superb supporting cast and with some key members of it now gone, the pressure will be on others to step up and fill the void as much as it will be on Kane and Toews to continue to lead the charge.