Patrick Kane signs in Switzerland

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Patrick Kane signs in Switzerland

Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane postponed original plans to play in Europe when former teammate Adam Burish helped organize the Champs for Charity game.

But after playing in Friday's game, Kane will be heading across the pond.

Kane has signed with EHC Biel, a National League A squad in Switzerland. Kane tweeted the news on Tuesday afternoon ("Excited and thankful to join EHC Biel in the Swiss league. Looking forward to the experience"). His agent, Pat Brisson, confirmed that Kane will play in Friday's Champs for Charity game with current and former Blackhawks, then depart for Switzerland.

Kane said he was close to signing with a European squad early last week. But NHL and NHLPA negotations were looking promising about a week ago; that, and Burish coming up with this game, were enough to keep Kane's plans on hold.

"Yeah, I would say I was close, maybe a week or two to going over," Kane said last Wednesday at the Champs for Charity press conference. "I'm just waiting for the right situation and things like that. You hear about this game and you hear (how) negotiations are going, you don't want to make any rush to go over there and come back after a couple of weeks. We'll see what happens."

But negotiations have taken a nosedive since then, with no talks currently scheduled between the two sides. So Kane will head to EHC Biel, where he will play for as long as the lockout goes. Boston's Tyler Seguin is also signed with EHC Biel.

In midst of career season, Artem Anisimov still not satisfied with overall game

In midst of career season, Artem Anisimov still not satisfied with overall game

In terms of points this season, Artem Anisimov is closing in on some career numbers.

His goal against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday night was his 22nd of the season, tying a career best set with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2013-14. One more point and he'll equal his career best (44) in that department from 2010-11, when he was with the New York Rangers.

And all of this is with 20 games remaining in the regular season. So is this Anisimov's best career regular season?

"Ah, no," Anisimov said recently. "Close to it, but not good enough."

Anisimov would list a few things he still needs to improve upon – we'll get to that later – but even "close," Anisimov has had another strong season for the Blackhawks, once again centering Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane. It's easy to focus on those two wings, given their dazzling play-making ability. But every line needs at least one blue-collar guy, the one who does more of the dirty work and perhaps takes the punishment in front of the net.

For the second consecutive season, that second-line guy is Anisimov, and his net-front play, especially, has led to more production this season.

"Arty's a smart player. He knows getting there, there [are] rewards for being around the net," coach Joel Quenneville said. "He finds his positioning. Sometimes he gets there at the right time and his arrival times are due to his anticipation with his wingers. [It's] the willingness; there's some abuse you have to take over the course of a regular season and it doesn't distract Arty from getting there."

Anisimov's game-winner against the Blues came the way so many others have this season: around the net. This one was off a slick pass from Panarin. Be it scoring goals like that, limiting a goaltender's vision or cleaning up rebounds, Anisimov's net-front presence has been steady. 

"He's coming up with pucks, gets those loose pucks to Kaner and Bread Man and they do their thing and create some magic there. Or you have Arty in front and you have Kaner and Bread doing their thing back and forth across the zone and you have that big body in front," Ryan Hartman said. "It makes it difficult, and not just when one of them are shooting. Sometimes the goalie can't see the pass because Arty's there and it's really deceptive and a big part of our team."

So the production has been there, no doubt. But where does Anisimov feel he's lacking?

"I just need to improve in all aspects: skating, back check, forecheck, stick position," Anisimov said. "All the little things have to be a little bit better."

Most players are never satisfied with where their games are. They're always looking to improve. Anisimov will keep working on what he thinks are some deficiencies but his constant net-front presence has filled what used to be an issue for the Blackhawks.

Bears reportedly won't franchise tag Alshon Jeffery, so what's next?

Bears reportedly won't franchise tag Alshon Jeffery, so what's next?

NFL.com's Insider Ian Rapoport dropped a news bomb in the middle of the night, Tweeting in the wee hours of Monday morning that the Bears will not sign receiver Alshon Jeffery to a franchise tag:

Jeffery played under the franchise tag in 2016, when he earned roughly $14.6 million. 

The Bears could still re-sign Jeffery to a longer deal in free agency, but the market on the 27-year-old receiver may climb out of their desired range.

The $17 million franchise tag was an awful lot of salary cap to spend on a guy who has missed 11 games over the last two seasons to injury and a PED suspension that stretched to four games in 2016.

When he was on the field last year, Jeffery turned in his worst stat line since his rookie season, catching only 52 balls for 821 yards and 2 TDs.

Still, his departure would leave a gaping hole in the Bears receiving corps as Cameron Meredith and Kevin White would emerge as the leaders of the group.

Meredith went undrafted out of Illinois State, but he has impressed in his two pro seasons, leading the Bears in receptions (66), targets (96), yards (888) and TDs (4) in 2016.

White was the Bears' first-round pick in 2015 (7th overall) but has played in just four games due to leg issues and has only 19 catches for 187 yards and 0 TDs under his belt.

David Kaplan believes if Jeffery does depart Chicago, it sends a bigger message about the state of the Bears: