Chicago Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin is asking for a six-year deal worth “more than” $6 million annually in contract talks, according to the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc. Panarin, an upcoming restricted free agent in the summer of 2017, will be looking at a monster raise as part of his second contract in the NHL.
These terms are big for the reigning Calder Trophy winner, but they’re also pretty reasonable considering his talent level and resume. Panarin was one of the best scorers in the NHL last season and turns 25 in late October. He’s going to command a big contract as an RFA, so starting at six years and a cap hit around $6 million actually isn’t that bad.
GM Stan Bowman was asked questions about the negotiations with Panarin’s camp on Tuesday but declined to offer any details. The forward’s agent, Tom Lynn, said last week that talks have already started.
“I don’t think it’s a productive thing to kind of negotiate through the media,” Bowman said. “Obviously, Artemi is a big part of our team. We’re excited for the season he had. We’re looking forward to him building on that as well. And then the negotiations will be what they are between his agent and myself. I respect Tom, he’s a very knowledgeable guy and I know Artemi put a lot of faith in him. Tom and I will work to get something done.”
This is going to be a delicate game for Bowman and the Blackhawks to play. Signing Panarin to a six-year deal worth a bit more than $36 million would likely be a smart investment, but it’s not that simple for a team that’s already got so many other commitments. The risk, of course, is that the team waits and he raises his stock even higher, forcing the Hawks into a corner when he’s asking for Tarasenko money instead of Forsberg/MacKinnon/Saad money.
On the flip side, the Hawks would probably LOVE to hammer out some kind of bridge deal that avoids a lengthy commitment. Let’s just get this out of the way, though: it’s not happening. Panarin is going to pursue a long-term deal and it’s hard to imagine the 25-year-old coming off a ridiculously good rookie season won’t get it. So the Hawks will have to figure out how to make this work, and frankly, at least he’s not asking for the max term of eight years. The Hawks already have enough deals that long on the books.
But there’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Hawks’ situation for the 2017-18 season. First, there’s the expansion draft, which will poach a player from the team to join the new Las Vegas franchise. Second, there’s the salary cap, which will probably go up but who knows by how much. And finally, there’s the cap overage, which might be millions if Panarin hits all his bonuses again. So you’re talking several million in cap space that the Hawks have no idea whether they’ll be able to use yet depending on those factors, which makes it harder to ink another huge extension.
Bowman maintains his confidence that a deal will get done, although we heard similar sentiments in the months leading up to Brandon Saad’s trade to Columbus. We’re certainly not at that point yet, but this isn’t a dissimilar situation, and you have to imagine the Hawks are going to be determined to do it differently. Panarin is too good a talent for this team to let go without a plan to replace him.