Panik Making Big Contributions For Blackhawks
By Randy Holndoner (@bhawkschatter)
The Chicago Blackhawks couldn’t be happier with the play of Richard Panik and how he has developed since being acquired last January in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs for Jeremy Morin.
It was a trade that was considered minor since neither Panik nor Morin had made any real contributions to their teams. Coincidentally, Morin’s trade to Toronto was the second time that Chicago had traded him.
Panik, 26, was acquired in hopes to make some contributions, whether it be on the 3rd or 4th line. He had experience with his prior teams (Tampa Bay and Toronto), 141 games, but just 39 points. He played 30 games with the Blackhawks last year gathering 8 points (6G 2A). In the seven game series loss to the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs last year, he was one of the better players for the Blackhawks, finding himself skating on the top line at times with Jonathan Toews.
Entering this year, he was expected to produce on the top line with Toews, and whichever other winger that happened to make up the last third of that line. Panik did not disappoint as he started the year red hot by scoring 6 goals on his first 9 shots of the season. He went into a slump afterwards where in his next 24 games, he accumulated just 5 points (2G 3A).
Bouncing between lines to get his confidence back, nothing seemed to work until rookie Nick Schmaltz, 21, was put on the top line aside Toews and Panik. Schmaltz had spent the month of December with the Rockford Icehogs, the Blackhawks AHL affiliate, to work on his game, where he played 12 games and tallied 9 points (6G 3A).
Since then, that line has become the top line for the Blackhawks, surpassing the Artemi Panarin–Artem Anisimov–Patrick Kane line. Richard Panik, in his last 9 games, has 12 points (6G 6A) and is a +11. One of those games, was a +5 performance against the stingy, defensive-minded, Minnesota Wild.
Panik is in a contract year where he will become a restricted free agent at season’s end. As it seems every year, the Blackhawks are going to be strapped for any monies to be handed out with the salary cap restricting them again. Earlier in the year, the Blackhawks had agreed on a 2-year, $12million deal for Calder Trophy Winner, Artemi Panarin. Joining Panik in free agency, are 8 others on the Blackhawks squad, including Scott Darling, Brian Campbell, Andrew Desjardins, and newly acquired Johnny Oduya, who will be unrestricted free agents. The other restricted free agents joining Panik will be Dennis Rasmussen, Tomas Jurco, Tanner Kero, and Michal Kempny.
With nine players entering free agency, and a projected cap space of $6.6million, provided by capfriendly.com, Stan Bowman will have yet another off-season to try and work some magic in order to keep some of this talent pool and provide a deep team that manages to somehow stay competitive year after year.
Until then, Panik and the Blackhawks will focus on the current business at hand, trying to win their fourth Stanley Cup in just eight years.
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