Artem Anisimov signs five-year extension with Blackhawks

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Artem Anisimov has barely had any time to process the trade that sent him from Columbus to Chicago. So give him a bit of time before he starts thinking about being Patrick Kane’s center.

Now signed with the Blackhawks for the next six seasons, he’s got time.

“Obviously, Chicago is a very talented team, and they have star players,” Anisimov said. “It’s hard to talk about in the summer. We just need to go on the ice and start finding some solutions.”

A day after Stan Bowman acquired Anisimov and three other players in exchange for Brandon Saad and two prospects, the Hawks committed long-term to Anisimov, signing him to a five-year contract extension that carries a $4.55 million cap hit starting in 2016-17. Bowman made it clear he thinks the 27-year-old Anisimov can be the Hawks’ permanent answer at second-line center. Anisimov had seven goals and 20 assists in just 52 games this past season, but scored 22 goals in 2013-14.

“He’s a player that we have been trying to acquire for quite some time,” Bowman said. “He’s someone we’ve been chasing for a long time, and we were finally able to acquire him. I think he fits in very nicely to our team. He’s able to play offensively, as well as a penalty killing role. He’s done a little of everything in his career. For our needs, to know that we’ve got [Jonathan] Toews and Anisimov for years to come, that was a very big part of this.”

With Anisimov signed, unrestricted free agents Brad Richards and Antoine Vermette became expendable (and unaffordable). Richards signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings, worth a reported $3 million, with up to $1 million in potential playoff bonuses. Vermette signed a two-year deal to return to the Arizona Coyotes, saying that, to his knowledge, the Hawks never really showed much interest in re-signing him. Andrew Desjardins, meanwhile, has received several offers, and the Hawks have “expressed interest.” His agent says he’s “unsure” what Desjardins will decide.

Meanwhile, the Hawks were trying to find a way to re-sign defenseman Johnny Oduya. They still need to shed salary to get under the $71.4-million salary cap, with Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell the likeliest to go, should Bowman find a taker willing to meet his asking price. Oduya was taking his time in making his own decision to see if the Hawks could make it happen. The Hawks also are still talking with restricted free agent Marcus Kruger.

Anisimov is part of a sudden Russian influx for the Hawks, who have had just one Russian player — Nikolai Khabibulin — in recent seasons. The Hawks signed Artemi Panarin earlier in the season, and added winger Viktor Tikhonov (the grandson of the legendary Soviet coach) for a reported $1.04-million, one-year deal. Panarin and Tikhonov were linemates in the KHL.

Tikhonov, who played 61 games for the Coyotes in 2008-09 after being drafted 28th overall in 2008, grew up in California. Panarin, however, will benefit greatly from Anisimov’s presence.

“I talked to him; he’s not speaking English,” Anisimov said. “I’m going to help him around, adapt him to the NHL a little bit. It’s going to be good for us to have some Russians on this team.”

The other major piece of the Saad trade was 20-year-old winger Marko Dano, a highly skilled playmaker who burst onto the scene as a rookie. He had eight goals and 13 assists in just 35 games with the Blue Jackets, including seven goals and 12 assists in his final 25 games. Bowman said he thinks fellow Slovak Marian Hossa will have a positive impact on Dano, too.

“He’s an exciting player,” Bowman said. “High-energy game. Very strong. Competitive. He’s physical. Not afraid to go into the corners and battle. He’s a guy our coaching staff is going to [love]. … He’s a nice player to add to this mix of young players we have here. I think he’s going to surprise some people with his all-around game.”

Anisimov raved about Dano’s game, as well.

“Marko is a good player, young, talented,” Anisimov said. “He’s aggressive, he can make plays around the net, he drives the net hard. He plays a strong game, a very good player.”


Twitter: @marklazerus

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