Artemi Panarin ‘glad’ to be with Blue Jackets
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Artemi Panarin was blindsided by the trade that sent him to the Columbus Blue Jackets. But three months later, he certainly doesn’t sound devastated by it.
‘‘This is business, baby,’’ he said — in English — with a broad smile after the Blackhawks’ 5-2 preseason victory Tuesday at Nationwide Arena.
Panarin was loose and comfortable, occasionally chatting in English and frequently devolving into giggle fits with teammates Vitaly Abramov and Matiss Kivlenieks, who tried in vain to interpret for him. In fact, Panarin said he was ‘‘glad’’ to be with the Blue Jackets, where he’ll have more creative control on the ice. As dynamic as he and Patrick Kane were as linemates, Kane is basically a center playing wing, dominating the puck.
With the Blue Jackets, Panarin can be that guy.
‘‘I can play a little bit more with the puck,’’ Panarin said through the interpreters. ‘‘Just kind of express myself on the ice a little bit more.’’
Panarin said he hasn’t talked with Kane since the trade, but Kane admitted his initial reaction was disappointment at having lost a linemate and a friend.
‘‘It was just fun to play with him every night,’’ said Kane, who had his two best seasons, including a 106-point season and a Hart Trophy in 2015-16, with Panarin on his line. ‘‘I’ll miss him, for sure.’’
Panarin unleashed several of his patented power-play one-timers Tuesday, but Hawks goalie Anton Forsberg — acquired in the Panarin trade to back up Corey Crawford — was up to the task, finishing with 38 saves. Cody Franson, Laurent Dauphin, Jan Rutta, Nick Schmaltz and Vinnie Hinostroza scored for the Hawks.
Coach Joel Quenneville knows Panarin’s game inside and out and said before the game that the key was taking away his time and space. Whether that’s possible or not, well, Quenneville smirked, ‘‘We’ll find out.’’
The deal made sense for the Hawks. Brandon Saad is a more well-rounded player than Panarin. He’s more accomplished, too, with two Stanley Cups. And he’s a year younger, just 24. And while Saad probably won’t ever be the offensive weapon Panarin was, the two share a career high of 31 goals.
That said, Panarin is a rare talent, an edge-of-the-seat spectacle on skates, and it might be years before it’s clear who ‘‘won’’ the blockbuster trade. The Hawks are just trying to figure out how to fill the void left by Panarin. His spot on the power play is up for grabs, and Patrick Sharp and Alex DeBrincat have had a spin on Kane’s left wing so far.
‘‘Obviously, we’re going to miss him a lot, but it’s a done deal already, and we just need to move forward,’’ said Artem Anisimov, Panarin’s countryman, close friend and former center. ‘‘I talked to him [a few] days ago, and he’s doing fine.’’
Sounded like it. Looked like it, too.
The colors were different, and so was the number on the back of the jersey. But there was something awfully familiar about the way Panarin lurked in the left faceoff circle, stick cocked halfway, waiting to unleash one of the most dangerous one-timers in the league.
Panarin seemed destined to become the Hawks’ next great offensive star, a fan favorite with a fun-loving personality to go with his all-world game. But now Panarin is fated to go down as a curious footnote in franchise history, a dazzling blip on the radar with no postseason glory to cement a legacy.
Whatever remarkable accomplishments are in Panarin’s future, they won’t come with the team that brought him to the NHL.
But, hey, that’s business, baby.
Follow me on Twitter @ MarkLazerus.