Chicago Blackhawks

Blackhawks lock up Richard Panik with two-year extension

Blackhawks lock up Richard Panik with two-year extension

When Richard Panik had his final season media session on April 22, he didn’t know what the future held for him. Coming off what he considered his most consistent season in the NHL, he hoped to return to the Blackhawks.

Now he will.

The Blackhawks and Panik agreed on a two-year extension, the team announced on Thursday. In a statement, general manager Stan Bowman said, “Richard made tremendous strides this past year and we were pleased with the consistency he showed throughout the season. We are looking forward to having him in Chicago for the next two seasons.”

Pierre LeBrun of TSN reported that Panik’s deal has a cap hit of $2.8 million per season. Panik is coming off a one-year deal with a $875,000 cap hit. Speaking on a conference call on Thursday morning, Panik said the deal the Blackhawks offered was a good one and there was, “not much thinking about it.”

Panik gets a raise but he earned it with his 2016-17 regular season, when he set career highs in goals (22), assists (22) and points (44). Panik was happy with his season, right up until the first round of the playoffs.

“I think when I look back at the season, this was my most consistent season in the NHL. That’s good. But when you get swept in the playoffs it’s not looking good, your individual season,” Panik said on April 22. “So you’re disappointed.”

Still, Panik provided a net-front presence that the Blackhawks needed this past season and will need going forward. He helped the top line find some stability, as he, Jonathan Toews and Nick Schmaltz were together for most of the season’s second half.

The Blackhawks will face another offseason of number crunching, and Panik’s new deal will add to that. According to CapFriendly.com, the Blackhawks are more than $3.6 million above the current cap ceiling ($73 million). That includes bonuses of more than $3.5 million that players earned in the 2016-17 season. In March, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the 2017-18 cap could be between $75.5-$76 million, depending on inflator negotiations with the NHLPA. Even with the increase, the Blackhawks will have some math to do.

Also, will the Blackhawks protect Panik in the upcoming expansion draft? It would seem they would, considering how happy they’ve been with Panik’s progression. The Blackhawks have to leave two forwards unprotected: Panik, Marcus Kruger, Ryan Hartman and Jordin Tootoo are all eligible to be exposed in the expansion draft.

“There is still a chance but hopefully Chicago will protect me,” Panik said. “My main reason [in re-signing] was I wanted to stay in Chicago. So hopefully they will protect me and I’ll stay here.”

Since coming to the Blackhawks in a minor-league trade in January of 2015, Panik has done some great things here. If the Blackhawks protect him, he’ll look to build off last season.

“I know how good I am, what I’m capable of and how I can play,” he said on Thursday. “Chicago gave me the opportunity and that’s what it’s all about. I wanted to show them, wanted to earn a spot on the team that was my main focus in training camp, to earn a spot and go from there.”

Jeremy Roenick thinks NBA offseason player drama 'is a joke'

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AP

Jeremy Roenick thinks NBA offseason player drama 'is a joke'

For the past decade, NBA stars have moved away from trying to beat down each other on the court and have instead looked to form superteams in an effort to maximize their chances at winning a title or building a dynasty.

There's a debate to be had whether that's good or bad for the game, but the offseason drama has gotten under the skin of one former NHL player who has seen enough.

Jeremy Roenick, former Blackhawks winger and current NHL on NBC analyst, took to Twitter to voice his opinion surrounding the drama amid the Kyrie Irving situation evolving in Cleveland, and he didn't hold back:

Do you agree or disagree?

Could Hobey Baker winner Will Butcher be an option for Blackhawks?

Could Hobey Baker winner Will Butcher be an option for Blackhawks?

The calendar is quickly approaching August and a majority of the NHL's top free agents have already signed new deals or found new homes. But there's one marquee player who has suddenly shaken loose, and will surely draw heavy interest across the league.

That would be 22-year-old defenseman Will Butcher, who informed the Colorado Avalanche that he will hit the open market and become an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 15.

Butcher, a 2013 fifth-round draft pick, was named the recipient of the 2017 Hobey Baker Award, annually given to college hockey's top player, after scoring seven goals and 30 assists in 43 games during his senior campaign while helping Denver University capture its first national title since 2005. It's the second straight year NCAA's top player has elected not to sign with the club that drafted him, with Jimmy Vesey doing the same last year when he signed with the New York Rangers instead of the Nashville Predators.

So could Butcher be a real option for the Blackhawks? There's certainly a reason for both sides to be intrigued by a potential match. 

With Brian Campbell, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya no longer in the picture, the Blackhawks could use a young, NHL-ready blue liner with top-four potential and Butcher provides just that.

He's a 5-foot-10, 186-pound puck-moving defenseman with high offensive upside but also plays a solid two-way game and is responsible in his own end. He carries a left-handed shot, quarterbacked Denver's No. 1 power play unit and possesses strong leadership skills after serving as the team's captain for two years.

While he is certainly no sure thing, Butcher would be as close to pro ready as any prospect in Chicago's system and could factor into the cards as soon as this season. It also doesn't hurt that he shared the same blue line at Denver as Blackhawks prospect Blake Hillman, who drew great reviews from Joel Quenneville at prospect camp.

The good news for the cap-crunched Blackhawks is that the maximum allowable salary for an entry-level contract is $925,000, so that eliminates the possibility of getting into a bidding war with other teams. Signing and performance bonuses can still be included, but that's the least of their worries if they can land a player of Butcher's caliber.

His decision will really come down to best fit and opportunity to play and win, and the Blackhawks can offer all of the above.