Blackhawks don't need to panic with Panarin locked up
-- If you haven't heard, the Chicago Blackhawks and superstar
sophomore forward Artemi Panarin agreed to terms on a bridge deal a
couple days after Christmas. The two-year deal is worth $12 million.
For those keeping track at home, the Blackhawks now have a little more
than $59.3 million committed to their core group of nine players --
Panarin, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith,
Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Corey Crawford and Artem Anisimov
-- for the 2017-18 season. And there will be bonus money that will
carry over again.
Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman will now have to go about the business of
filling out a roster with at least seven more forwards, three more
defensemen and a backup goaltender. How will he do it?
Vegas could take Chicago's 2017 summer in a number of different
The Blackhawks actually have some work to do to make the roster
requirements for the expansion draft (they need to have another
exposed forward and goaltender), but the individual selected by the
new franchise could help Chicago. Or hurt them.
A smart play for Vegas that would help the Hawks would be Marcus
Kruger. Kruger has been one of Chicago's best defensive forwards over
the past few seasons and has been a crucial component to the Hawks'
penalty kill in their last two Stanley Cup victories. He'll turn 27 in
late May and carries a $3,083,333 cap hit for the next two years.
But Vegas might opt to take a young defenseman, and Chicago will
certainly have those available.
Trevor van Riemsdyk played in all 82 regular season games last season,
and carries a team-friendly $825,000 cap hit. Vegas selecting him
would mean Bowman has at least one more move to make before the start
of training camp.
The Wild Cards
Beyond Vegas, the Blackhawks have some internal variables to work out
between now and July. The biggest wild card for the Hawks, and every
other team, will be the cap increasing, but the cap hasn't seen a
significant bump in a couple years.
Dennis Rasmussen and Richard Panik have been in the Hawks' rotation
consistently this season and both are making well under $1 million,
but they are both restricted free agents. Rasmussen could be a
potential replacement if/when Kruger departs; he has seen time killing
penalties this season, but isn't nearly as good as the veteran at the
And backup goaltender Scott Darling, who was terrific in Corey
Crawford's absence recently, is an unrestricted free agent this
summer. He could be a very popular name on the open market, but he's a
Chicago guy who has openly said he wants to stay home.
The Hawks have a ton of roster spots to fill next year; Chicago only
has 24 standard player contracts on the books right now. Chicago also
has 10 picks in the 2017 NHL Draft, which happens to be at the United
Center. So there are plenty of potential pieces that could be put into
play by Bowman when he decides to move things forward.
Could one of those core pieces be a guy the Blackhawks make available?
The Twitter Trade Block has put Crawford, Seabrook and Anisimov into
almost every roster in the League (except St. Louis), but all three
have a no-move clause for 2017-18, which further complicates things to
Chicago has seen an influx of prospects on the NHL roster this season
to varying degrees of success, and will likely rely on those
youngsters even more next season.
Ryan Hartman has been solid up front, and the Hawks have liked what
they've seen from Vinnie Hinostroza and Tyler Motte as well. Those
three -- and Nick Schmaltz, who is currently in Rockford -- would
figure to be in the mix next season.
On the blueline, Chicago has been skating Gustav Forsling and van
Riemsdyk almost every night recently. Forsling is a talented
20-year-old the Hawks acquired in a trade with Vancouver a couple
years ago, but his performances in the middle of the season have had
their ups and downs.
So... what's the answer?
Chicago won't be the only organization active well ahead of the trade
deadline this season with a looming expansion draft. And there are
certainly other GMs who would love to be "stuck" in a situation where
their core has already won three Cups. But Bowman has a lot of work.
Oh, and one more thing. In 2019, Panarin won't be the only big time
player in Chicago looking for another contract. Hjalmarsson's current
deal -- which is one of the biggest bargains in the League at a $4.1
million cap hit -- expires in two years, as well. Bowman will
undoubtedly keep that in mind when making any other commitments or
trades in the coming months.