ST. LOUIS — Stan Bowman never seems to sweat the salary cap, no matter how tight it gets. The Blackhawks general manager has a plan for dealing with just about every contingency, and has deftly massaged the roster each season to keep the team in compliance and in contention.
So Bowman certainly wasn’t gnashing his teeth over Artemi Panarin cashing in on his $2.55 million worth of bonuses, $2.3 million of which will count against next year’s salary cap. Panarin earned his bonus by placing in the top 10 among forwards in scoring with a spectacular late-season push of five goals and eight assists in his last five games.
“It’s always sort of puzzled me why people look at that as a bad thing,” Bowman said Wednesday morning at the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs. “You look at the impact he had on our team — we wouldn’t be where we are today without his contributions. So I’m happy for him. We were certainly rooting for him, not against him. The bonuses, we’ll work that out. We always find a way to make that work in the summer time.”
Bowman held court on a number of issues.
— On the growing push, particularly from Canadian press, that Edmonton’s Connor McDavid should win the Calder Trophy over the 24-year-old Panarin, despite playing in just 45 games: “I think Connor’s a tremendous player. He’s a lot of fun to watch. And he accomplished a lot in the times when he was healthy. … He’s a special talent, there’s no question about that. But getting a chance to see Panarin play game in, game out, it’s hard to do what he did. He did something pretty special this year.”
— On if he feels he can sign Panarin to a team-friendly contract extension this summer: “If you’ve been around our team enough, you know how much he enjoys being with the group here. I think he’s fit in. It’s like he’s been with us for a few years now. It’s incredible chemistry. I’m not going to speak for him. I think he’s enjoyed his time here and he’ll want to stay, and then it’s just a matter of putting the deal together. Those things tend to come together once you get into it. I can’t speculate, but I think we’ve had pretty good success finding ways to get those kind of deals done.”
— On Bryan Bickell, who was sent back down to Rockford, and whose four-year, $16-million contract has become an albatross: “Bicks had some tremendous runs with us, in particular, in the playoffs. So I think this is really his time of year. Things change quickly. … I give Bryan credit for going to Rockford and doing his job and continuing to get the repetitions and building on his confidence. I know that when his name is called, he’ll be ready.”
— On why veteran defensemen such as Trevor Daley, Rob Scuderi and Christian Ehrhoff haven’t fared well in Chicago: “Sometimes guys just fit other places. … If anything, it shows we’ve had an emergence of some young players here, like [Trevor van Riemsdyk, Erik Gustafsson and Viktor Svedberg]. It’s more about how our coaches have liked what their games have shown, and the potential for them, than it is against any other player. You’re always going to have certain players that flourish and others that don’t. You’ve just got to adjust to that.”
— On whether the Hawks will be able to re-sign restricted free agent Andrew Shaw: “We do a lot of planning internally, but until the [salary cap] number is actually out, then I can answer that better. But at this point, we’re focused on the game tonight and the series at hand, and we’ll take care of that when the time is right.”
— On possibly signing 2014 first-rounder Nick Schmaltz, who helped lead North Dakota to the NCAA championship: “He’s the next rising star, I think, for our organization. You look at his talent level, the way he plays, the style of hockey he has in terms of offensive skill. I would expect him to be a difference-maker for us. It’s just a matter of when he feels most comfortable.”
— On whether he’ll vote for Corey Crawford for the Vezina Trophy, which is voted by the league’s GMs: “You look at what Corey’s done this year, and it’s something we’ve seen for a long time. It’s nice he’s finally getting the recognition from the fans and the media for his performance. … He’s got my vote.”