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Blackhawks, Artemi Panarin agree to terms on contract extension

Artemi Panarin has 37 points in 37 games this season. (Getty Images)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The summer of 2017’s biggest concern just became the summer of 2019’s biggest concern. In the meantime, the Blackhawks will keep one of the best lines in hockey intact.

The Hawks agreed to a two-year contract extension with Artemi Panarin, according to a source. The deal is worth $6 million per season. Both the length and the cost of the deal are below market value for Panarin, already one of the most prolific scorers in the league in just his second season. The surprising bridge deal was a concession for both sides.

At 25 years old, Panarin was in line for a career-defining contract, and was believed to be asking for a six-year contract worth up to $7 million a season. But Panarin has made no secret of his desire to stay in Chicago, and to continue playing alongside Patrick Kane. For the Hawks, the short-term nature of the contract gives them some flexibility, but it means Panarin will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2018-19 season.

Tom Lynn, Panarin’s agent, said the hope is the Canadian dollar will rebound and the cap will go up and the Hawks will be able to offer something more long-term in two years.

“It was eventually the logical place to land after every other option was discussed at length and ruled out, over the last six months,” Lynn said. “[The] Blackhawks have been willing to do in contracts and trades what some other teams have not over the last five years to manage their peculiar situation of too many good players.” 

Panarin was slated to be a restricted free agent after this season. He won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year last year with 30 goals and 47 assists, while helping Kane reach career highs in goals and points en route to winning the Hart Trophy as league MVP. He has 15 goals and 22 assists through 37 games this season.

While the extension answered the biggest question of the offseason, it raises many others. The Hawks are right up against the salary cap next season, and the cap is expected to remain flat or go up $1-2 million at most. The Hawks now have 15 players signed for next season at a combined $66.6 million, per capfriendly.com. That will leave anywhere from $6.4 million to $8.4 million for the remaining seven or eight players to fill out the roster. And that doesn’t factor in the possible bonus overages the Hawks could carry over to next year. Panarin made $2.575 million performance bonuses last year, and is poised to do so again this year. With the Hawks near the current $73 million salary cap, most of that money will count against next year’s cap, further complicating things for general manager Stan Bowman.

The expansion draft could provide some relief, too, as the Vegas Golden Knights possibly could take either Marcus Kruger ($3.083 million) or Trevor van Riemsdyk ($825,000).

So there will be decisions to make going forward in order to keep the Hawks cap compliant, and another big name might have to be moved to accommodate Panarin’s new deal. But keeping Panarin was the top priority, and the Hawks will have him for at least two more seasons.