Source: Chicago Blackhawks plan on going 'all in' for Artemi Panarin
Two minutes after the Blackhawks traded Artemi Panarin to Columbus on June 23, 2017, this thought went through my head: He'll be back.
And now, it's looking like that may be the case as a source has told the Daily Herald that the Blackhawks will be going "all in" if Panarin becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Panarin gave the Blue Jackets a Sept. 13 deadline for a contract extension, so unless he signs with a team that Columbus trades him to, the Russian superstar will see what kind of offers come his way after the season ends.
"Artemi is a proud member of the Columbus Blue Jackets," agent Dan Milstein said Saturday. "He's genuinely happy playing in Columbus. If and when he hits the free market, we would be looking at all options and he will be the one to make the decision."
Two sources have said that Panarin and Patrick Kane are in "regular" contact with each other. They grew extremely close during Panarin's two seasons in Chicago, and Kane was not happy when the trade went down.
"I'd be sitting here lying to you if (I didn't say) my first reaction was pretty emotional," Kane told "Hockey Central" on Sportsnet on June 30, 2017. "A little bit of disappointment too, because obviously we had that chemistry the past couple years."
Now the question is, how does general manager Stan Bowman make this work? Especially when Panarin could command $10 million or more on the open market?
Actually, it shouldn't be that difficult.
• Assuming nobody is traded and restricted free agents David Kampf and Perlini receive about $1.25 million per year, the Hawks will have $38 million tied up in 11 forwards.
• Depending on which young blue liners are ready and what the Hawks decide to do with Brandon Manning ($2.25M cap hit), there will be about $21 million tied up in defensemen.
• And if Bowman signs Colin Delia to back up Corey Crawford for about $1 million, that's $7 million for two goalies.
Add it up and the Hawks are at around $66 million.
Let's put next year's cap at $82.5 million (it's projected to be between $81.4M and $85.5M). If Panarin agrees to come back for $9 million, the Hawks can still afford another decent forward and are in good shape to sign Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome, both of whom are RFAs after next season.
Now, some might scoff at Panarin agreeing to "just" $9 million, but remember when he signed the two-year, $12 million contract early in 2017, it was because he loved Chicago and wanted the Hawks to be able to pursue other free agents.
"Chicago's pressed against the salary cap," Panarin told Milstein. "I don't want to be that guy. I want to play on a winning team.
"Give them the flexibility so they can retain the guys or sign the new guys because it's not about me. I'm young. I'm going to make plenty of money in my future.
"I just want to make sure the team overall is going to be in good shape."
Milstein echoed those words Saturday.
"My clients have never had the issue that they're trying to squeeze for every penny," he said. "When he signed that $6 million deal, it's a comfort level for himself and for family and such.
"That is all I can say to you. I don't think it's going to be all about the money."
That has to be music to Bowman's ears. And Kane's. And Hawks fans everywhere.
Bowman, however, is going to have to convince Panarin that the Hawks are indeed on the right track. That these last two seasons -- assuming this one doesn't miraculously turn around -- are an aberration and that his return will spark a resurgence.
It could be a tough sell, but Panarin and Kane truly loved playing with each other.
And in the end, that may be all it takes.
• Follow John on Twitter @johndietzdh
Enough bread for the Breadman?A look at how the Hawks could afford Artemi Panarin next season. (Numbers in millions of dollars).
ForwardsPlayer Cap hit Through
Patrick Kane 10.5 2022-23
Jonathan Toews 10.5 2022-23
Brandon Saad 6.0 2020-21
Artem Anisimov 4.55 2020-21
Dominik Kahun 0.925 2019-20
Dylan Strome 0.863 2019-20
Alex DeBrincat 0.778 2019-20
John Hayden 0.75 2019-20
Alexandre Fortin .707 2019-20
David Kampf (1.25) ?
Brendan Perlini (1.25) ?
DefensemenBrent Seabrook 6.875 2023-24
Duncan Keith 5.538 2022-23
Connor Murphy 3.85 2021-22
Brandon Manning 2.25 2019-20
Erik Gustafsson 1.2 2019-20
Henri Jokiharju 0.925 2020-21
Adam Boqvist 0.925 2020-21
GoaliesCorey Crawford 6.0 2019-20
Colin Delia (1.0) ?
This gives the Hawks approximately $66.6 million in salaries. Panarin would sign for $9 million to $10 million per year, the Hawks could afford another $1 million forward and still be well below a cap projected to be between $81.4M and $85.5M.
Note: Players with salaries in parenthes are restricted free agents. Those numbers are an estimate.