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December 31, 2016 | 12:07pm ET
Blackhawks don't need to panic with Panarin locked up

CHICAGO, IL -- 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?

Expansion

Vegas could take Chicago's 2017 summer in a number of different directions.

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 dot.

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.

A Trade

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 an extent.

The Kids

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.

Tab Bamford is a Columnist and the Chicago Correspondent for The Fourth Period. Be sure to follow him on Twitter.

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