From the “this might have something to do with that” file: Chicago forward Artemi Panarin captured the NHL’s first star of the week on Monday, after racking up five goals and six points over his last four games.
That put Panarin on 29 goals and 72 points for the season. The 25-year-old Russian is now tied with Evgeni Malkin for 10th in the NHL in scoring, but sits ninth among all forwards — and that’s pretty important, because Panarin will receive $1.725 million in bonus money by finishing in the top 10.
More, from the Chicago-Tribune:
The category of total points will be Panarin’s best chance to secure the bonus, most of which will go against the Hawks’ cap for next season.
Panarin, who also has a two-year, $12 million extension beginning next season, is well positioned to secure another $850,000 in “Schedule A” bonuses for reaching various team milestones for points, plus-minus rating and minutes played.
Panarin and the ‘Hawks went through a similar situation last year. It led to some asking about potential awkwardness — pressed up against the cap ceiling, it would’ve financially behooved the ‘Hawks to have Panarin fall short of his bonus targets — but GM Stan Bowman shot down any talk of organizational unease.
“Our team wouldn’t be where we are without him,” Bowman told Blackhawks Insider near the end of last season (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.”
While Chicago was pleased with Panarin’s season, the financial strain did lead (in part) to the club shipping out Andrew Shaw at the draft.
As for the remainder of this year, the ‘Hawks have little to play for, so there’ll be a decent amount of focus on Panarin over final three games. Chicago closes out with a road swing through Colorado, Anaheim and Los Angeles, and it’s worth noting Panarin has faced those clubs a combined six times this year — racking up eight points.