If Blackhawks rookie Artemi Panarin finishes in the top 10 in scoring among NHL forwards, he’ll receive a $1.725 million bonus that could force his club into making some tough decisions this summer.
And it’s looking right now like he’ll achieve that goal.
However, that doesn’t bother Chicago GM Stan Bowman.
“Our team wouldn’t be where we are without him,” Bowman told Blackhawks Insider (audio).
“What he’s done here as a rookie, I don’t want to say it’s unprecedented, but it hasn’t happened in a long, long time for a guy, his first year in the league, to finish in the top 10 in scoring. That’s why those bonuses are rarely earned. He’s done something very, very special this year.”
Bowman — a guy who’s rather familiar with having to make tough decisions in the offseason — is just going to take whatever happens in stride.
“As far as this summer,” he said, “there’s so many unknowns in the situation. We don’t know what the salary cap’s going to be, so at this point it’s premature to assume anything. We’ll get that figured out in due time. We always find a way to make that work.
“But that’s not the focus right now. We’re excited for Panarin and I’m glad that he keeps scoring. We keep winning games when he keeps scoring and setting up plays, so we hope there’s more of that to come.”
Chicago has one game left in the regular season, Saturday in Columbus.
Looking at the Blackhawks’ cap situation, they have a number of pending unrestricted free agents, including deadline acquisition Andrew Ladd, who would like to be more than just a rental.
But it’s pending RFA Andrew Shaw that some feel the ‘Hawks may have to trade, a la Brandon Saad. Though Shaw won’t command the kind of money that Saad got from the Blue Jackets, he’ll certainly get a raise from his current salary of $2.5 million.
The ‘Hawks have also said they’d like to get Panarin’s contract extended this summer. He’s currently signed through next season.