There were a few surprising moves during the off-season, but no transaction was more shocking than the Blackhawks trading Artemi Panarin to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Since coming into the league two years ago, Panarin had shown that he was a dynamic offensive talent that could produce on a nightly basis.
The 25-year-old scored 30 and 31 goals, and 77 and 74 points since coming to the NHL in 2015-16.
As good as he’d been for the ‘Hawks, management knew that once his contract expired after the 2018-19 season, there would be little chance of them being able to sign him to a long-term deal. That’s why they dealt him for Brandon Saad, who has four years remaining on his current contract.
Panarin spent most of his time in Chicago on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov. Some have suggested that Panarin’s high offensive totals are inflated because he played with Kane. Understandably, those kinds of opinions annoy the Russian winger.
“Throughout my career, including Russia in my very last season, people always say I am playing because of somebody else,” Panarin said, per NHL.com. “Nobody remembers how I played prior to the last couple of years. I am used to it and I am not paying attention to it. I get a little bit angry at it.”
During his final year in the KHL, he scored an impressive 26 goals and 62 points in 54 games with St. Petersburg SKA. He was well-surrounded on that team, as Ilya Kovalchuk, Vadim Shipachyov (now with the Golden Knights) and Evgeny Dadonov (now with the Panthers) were all on the roster. But it was Panarin who led the team in goals and points in 2014-15.
“It should be noted that Patrick Kane had a couple of his best seasons of his career too playing with Artemi, so it goes both ways,” said Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen.
“He’s definitely not a one-dimensional player as a shooter. He’s also a great passer and creates offense by beating people 1-on-1 with his skill and speed and quickness, but also with a great pass. He’s shown that type of chemistry with Kane, who’s an excellent passer as well.”