By Chris Emma–
(CBS) Playing out the tail end of a five-minute man advantage, Blackhawks winger Artemi Panarin passed on a shot in the slot and dished across to Jonathan Toews, who also passed up a clean look before firing a one-timer to Trevor van Riemsdyk.READ MORE: Police Raid Two Locations Of Parlor Pizza Restaurant
Working swiftly, van Riemsdyk ripped a slapshot through a crowd and into the net, giving the Blackhawks a 4-0 lead in the second period of Tuesday’s 6-2 win against the Coyotes. Initially, the goal was credited to van Riemsdyk, with assists to Toews and Panarin. After victory was earned and the United Center was cleared, an important scoring change was made.
The NHL ruled that Andrew Ladd had deflected the Blackhawks’ fourth goal in, thus giving the assists to van Riemsdyk and Toews. An assist was taken away from Panarin, one that could’ve been of great importance.
Built into Panarin’s contract with the Blackhawks are a series of detailed bonus scenarios to his steal-of-a-deal base salary of $812,500. The one currently in focus regards his points total.
Should Panarin rank in the top 10 in points among forwards, he will be awarded a $1.725 million bonus. That would be in addition to a series of other lesser bonuses, some of which he’s already achieved, as detailed previously by Second City Hockey.
If Panarin finishes in the top 10 in points among forwards, most of his bonus money would carry over to the Blackhawks’ 2016-’17 cap hit. A top-10 finish would bring his bonus total to $2.3 million, while it’d be a manageable $575,000 if he’s outside that grouping. Panarin posted two goals in Tuesday’s victory, and that third point that was taken away could prove critical.
Following the removal of that point on Ladd’s deflection goal, Panarin enters Wednesday night tied for eighth place with Jets winger Blake Wheeler at 74 points. Stars center Tyler Seguin stands a tally shy with 73 points, but he’s out for the rest of the season, so Panarin will stay clear of him. Kings center Anze Kopitar ranks in 11th place at 72 points, and Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko is three points back at 71 points.READ MORE: DNA Brings Pain, Closure To Family Of John Wayne Gacy Victim
For a team that annually dances around the cap number each summer, a Panarin bonus could really hamper the Blackhawks’ flexibility.
The Blackhawks have several players set to hit the open market after the 2016 season, including Ladd — viewed largely as a rental, unless general manager Stan Bowman can move a major contract like Bryan Bickell’s off the books — plus Dale Weise, Christian Ehrhoff, Tomas Fleischmann and Michal Rozsival. But the most likely casualty to a potential Panarin bonus is Andrew Shaw, whose two-year, $4-million deal is set to expire.
Shaw has become a staple for coach Joel Quenneville’s lineups, an undrafted player who found his way to success among two of the Blackhawks’ championship teams. He’s most likely to be let loose if Panarin is due for a big pay day, because the alternative would likely involve moving a previously untouchable member of the core to salvage cap room.
When Bowman signed Panarin out of Russia, he hoped to be getting a good addition for his star-studded roster. Adding these bonuses probably seemed like a fair move, though a lofty expectation that would be difficult to reach. Instead, Panarin is on his way to Calder Trophy honors as the NHL’s top rookie.
The Blackhawks and Panarin are caught in that uncomfortable place in which business practices merge into hockey realities. A team that needs every dollar of cap space will have its hands tied if it must pay Panarin major bonuses.
Strong play from Panarin this season has put the Blackhawks in position to compete for the Stanley Cup — and fork over a big paycheck. Even if he slips outside the top 10 in points among forwards, Panarin would still achieve his $1.725 million bonus by taking home Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP.
With championship expectations every season, the Blackhawks’ business of winning isn’t always simple.MORE NEWS: Aldermen Opposed To City Worker Vaccine Mandate Seek Special City Council Meeting To Repeal It