Winning the Calder Memorial Trophy is a monumental accomplishment for any young NHL rookie. Last year’s winner, Artemi Panarin, has become one of the Chicago Blackhawks most trusted players. Which is why it makes perfect sense for the Chicago front office to meet his demands and sign him to a lengthy contract extension, keeping him a member of the team for years to come.
Panarin’s path to the NHL makes for one great story. The 24-year-old didn’t get selected during the 2010 NHL Draft. So instead of playing hockey in North America, Panarin returned home to Russia, where he played professionally in the Kontenental Hockey League ( KHL). It was there that Panarin showcased his talents, and let NHL scouts know exactly who they passed on.
The Chicago Blackhawks must have been impressed by Panarin, as the team signed him to a two-year entry-level contract on April 29, 2015. And during his 2015-16 rookie season, Panarin didn’t disappoint. He teamed up with Patrick Kane to form one of the most deadly pairings in all of the NHL. Panarin scored 77 points, 30 of which came via goals.
The Blackhawks are stacked with talent. Patrick Kane was hands down the best player in the NHL last season, and Johnathan Toews has always been one of hockey’s most talented wingers. Panarin only added to the team’s gluttony of stars, and he was one of the contributing factors to the Blackhawks successful 2015-16 season.
As it stands, Panarin is set to become a restricted free agent at the end of the 2016-17 season. And while the Blackhawks have been known to trade away talent for salary cap purposes, they can’t let Panarin slip through their fingers.
Panarin’s camp is seeking a six-year deal worth about $36 million. It’s a pretty fair offer for Chicago to consider considering what recent young NHL stars have received. Some notable contracts have included former Blackhawk, Brandon Saad, and Nashville winger, Filip Forsberg, who both signed six-year $36 million deals with their teams in the last year.
Only 24, Panarin has a lot left to offer the Blackhawks. He’s already proven that he can be a top scorer in the NHL. Patrick Kane himself has stated that Panarin had a huge influence on his MVP season. That’s why it’s incredibly stupid not to sign Panarin to his very acceptable contract request.
You can’t break the Kane/Panarin combo up because of cost saving tactics. Panarin is arguably one of the best young talents in the NHL. Chicago should simply pay him what he wants. They can’t afford to let him go, and should do whatever it takes to keep him in the Windy City.
Follow Daniel James Gentile on Twitter @dgentleman9288