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KHL star free agent Artemi Panarin agrees to sign with Blackhawks, per report

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Chicago is apparently about to add a Russian forward to their roster.

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

UPDATE (April 29): The Blackhawks and Panarin have a two-year entry-level contract in place. It's contingent on him making the roster, so Panarin will head back to the KHL if he doesn't make the team.

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The Chicago Blackhawks are the front-runners in the bidding war for Artemi Panarin, reports Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

Friedman tweets he believes Chicago has an edge on Canadian teams like the Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, each have expressed interest in the forward. The Pittsburgh Penguins also have reported interest.

Panarin joined SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL in 2013 and became an All-Star the following season, leading the team in scoring -- ahead of Ilya Kovalchuk -- with 26 goals and 62 points in 54 games. He added 20 points in 20 playoff games during SKA's Gagarin Cup championship run.

The 23-year-old forward has 183 points in 263 KHL games. He has tallied at least 20 goals in each of the last two seasons in the KHL.

Here's what Hockey Future says of Panarin:

Oddly never drafted despite sporting an impressive resume, Artemi Panarin is a technically sound player with great skating abilities, an excellent nose for the net, and a magician's hands. He has also proven to be a very clutch player. Panarin was ranked fifth in KHL scoring with 62 points in 54 games. Like Moses, however, Panarin lacks size which may be challenge if he decides to cross the ocean.

Most scouting reports list Panarin at around 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, which isn't great NHL size, but if his hands can measure his smarts, he can play at the NHL level at that size. Look no further than Carl Hagelin, Mats Zuccarello, Tyler Johnson and Johnny Gaudreau, who are all smaller than that but still great young players.

Here's what The Hockey News says:

Panarin's ability tantalizes, as he can rack up points, he's fast and has natural scoring ability. The most rabid Panarin fans compare his shifty skill set to Patrick Kane's.

Panarin's KHL contract expires April 30. His teammate Viktor Tikhonov is also bolting for the NHL. It will be interesting to see if the two try to sign with the same team as they have been line mates with SKA before.

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