Artemi Panarin may be considering a return to the Blackhawks in the 2019 offseason. First reported by Scott Powers of The Athletic, Artemi Panarin said that he would list Chicago on his list of possible landing spots next summer. Apparently, there was originally bad blood between Panarin and Hawks management after Bowman and crew traded him to Columbus in 2017 for Brandon Saad, Anton Forsberg, and a 2018 5thround pick. Undoubtedly the worst trade in Chicago’s dynasty era. So, how realistic is this?
To start, Chicago will be getting an awful lot of money off the books this year. Kruger, Kunitz, Martinsen, Rutta, Davidson, and Ward are all UFA’s, opening up roughly $10.325 million in cap space. On top of that, now we don’t have to pay Schmaltz, who was looking at a possible 6 year/$6 million contract. We’ll have to sign a few RFA’s, Sikura, Johnson, Ejdsell, Dahlström, Delia, Perlini, and Kämpf, but despite that we should still have plenty of room for free agents. This season may as well be a bust, so Bowman should try to trade Anisimov and his $4.55 million contract away.
When it’s all set and done, the Blackhawks should have plenty of room to sign some top free agents. Panarin will be the most highly sought-after free agent and there would be nobody happier than Patrick Kane to be playing on a line with him again. It would boost point production and power play efficiency. But, there are tons of other free agents on the market. Top free agents include Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, Jordan Eberle, Erik Karlsson, and Jeff Skinner, all would be huge difference makers on this team. I don’t see the Hawks going after Karlsson, he’ll be asking for a lot of money and the Hawks have a surplus of young right-handed defenseman.
Will the Hawks get Panarin? Probably not, especially if the rumors are true about him wanting to play on one of the coasts. But, it’s a pipe dream, and the Hawks definitely will have the money to pay him if he’d want. I expect him to end up in New York or Vegas, just because they have “Russian superstar” written all over them. But boy, wouldn’t it be awesome to see this again.