Here’s an English phrase that Artemi Panarin understands: “Two and a half million dollars.”
Panarin professed ignorance Monday when asked about the performance bonuses that are within his reach — bonuses that could have a devastating impact on the Blackhawks’ salary-cap situation next season. But when posing a question about the potential financial windfall to his interpreter, Panarin’s eyes bulged wide after hearing that number.
“Honestly, the first time I looked at the contract, I saw that bonus, and then I forgot about it,’ Panarin said through the interpreter. “I don’t even think about it. At the end of the season, I’ll look at it again.”
According to Panarin’s agent, Tom Lynn, Panarin took a little less salary — $812,500 rather than the entry-level maximum of $925,000 — to sign with Chicago over his other suitors partly because he knew he’d have a better chance to hit his performance bonuses with the talent-rich Hawks. And sure enough, he’s getting there.
With 25 goals and 37 assists in just 68 games, Panarin’s basically a lock to hit his “Schedule A” bonuses, which are worth $850,000. If he manages to finish in the Top 10 in the league among forwards in just one of the following categories — goals, assists, points, points per game — or win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP or be named a postseason NHL All-Star, it’ll trigger his “Schedule B” bonus, which is worth a hefty $1.725 million.
Panarin is tied for 10th in the league in points among forwards.
And here’s the rub. Because the Hawks are so tight against the cap right now, most of that bonus would count against next year’s cap as an overage. So if Panarin finishes in the top 10 in points, the Hawks would get hit with about $2.3 million in extra cap hit, per generalfanager.com. That’s on top of Panarin’s $812,500 salary. And it could even mean the difference between re-signing a player such as Andrew Shaw or losing him.
If Panarin doesn’t hit the big bonus, the overage will be about $575,000.
“I’m thinking about points, but not about the bonus,” Panarin said. “It’s the same in every season. I don’t focus on the money, just on my game.”
Joel Quenneville said he wasn’t fully aware of Panarin’s bonus structure, but insisted it wouldn’t affect how Panarin is used. With home-ice advantage on the line over the final four weeks of the season, Quenneville’s not about to sit his second-most productive player for financial reasons.
“As a coach, we’re trying to win hockey games, and we try to put guys in the best spots to have success,” Quenneville said. “He’s helped us along the way and has been effective and consistent all year long. We want to see players do the best they can, and we’re not going to get in the way of success.”
The 24-year-old Panarin is in the midst of the longest season of his career, having never played more than 54 regular-season games during his six seasons in the KHL. But he’s showing no signs of slowing down, entering Monday’s game with three goals and two assists in his last five games. Panarin joked that the switch to daylight savings time threw him off his usual routine for a day, but other than that, he’s feeling great.
“I sleep eight hours a night, I feel good,” he said.
He’s not thinking about the playoffs, either. Not yet. All he’s thinking about is the next game on the schedule, and about being as productive as he can. He’s thinking about points, not dollars.
“And I want more,” he said with a smile.