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Anisimov set to help Blackhawks battle for more titles

by Brian Hedger / Chicago Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Artem Anisimov wanted to be part of the Chicago Blackhawks just as much as they wanted him to be their second-line center.

That's the main reason the two sides came together Wednesday on a five-year contract extension announced by the Blackhawks a day after they acquired Anisimov in a seven-player trade that sent forward Brandon Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"I want to be part of the team," Anisimov said Wednesday. "Every year, they've battled for the Stanley Cup. To sign for five years in Chicago is big for me, and I'm really excited to sign with the Blackhawks."

They're just as eager to hand him a Blackhawks uniform. General manager Stan Bowman was effusive in his praise of Anisimov during a conference call Tuesday and said he'd been chasing the 6-foot-4 center in trade talks for quite some time.

After landing his big fish center, who likely will play with right wing Patrick Kane on the second line, Bowman worked diligently with Anisimov's agent to complete the extension. His vision is a 1-2 punch down the middle of the Blackhawks' top two lines along with top center Jonathan Toews.

"I think for our needs, to know that we've got Toews and Anisimov for years to come, that was a very big part of this [trade]," Bowman said. "He's going to be here for a long time to come."

According to war-on-ice.com, Anisimov has one year left on his current contract, with a salary-cap charge of $3.283 million. A report by ESPNChicago.com's Scott Powers on Wednesday valued the extension at $22.75 million for the five-year span, which will last through the 2020-21 season and works out to an average annual value of $4.55 million.

The Blackhawks also got highly touted forward Marko Dano in the trade. Dano made a strong impression during his 35-game NHL debut last season, and scouts and Anisimov took notice.

"Marko Dano is a good player," Anisimov said. "[He's] young, talented and brings speed. [He's] aggressive, make plays around the net and drives the net hard. He's a very good player."

Anisimov might not be the only Russian forward on the Blackhawks roster either.

After signing forward prospect Artemi Panarin to a two-year contract in April, the Blackhawks added another Russian forward Wednesday, when they signed Viktor Tikhonov, 27, to a one-year contract ESPN reports is worth $1.04 million.

Tikhonov and Panarin helped SKA St. Petersburg win the Kontinental Hockey League's Gagarin Cup last season for the first time, and Anisimov said he's already planning to help Panarin adjust to the NHL.

"It's going to be easy for Artemi Panarin," Anisimov said. "I talked to him. He's not speaking English [well]. I'm going to help him around, adapt him to the NHL a little bit. It's going to be good for us to have some Russians on this team."

Tikhonov has played the past four seasons in the KHL. He was selected by the Arizona Coyotes with the No. 28 pick in the 2008 NHL Draft and played 61 NHL games in the 2008-09 season.

Anisimov was limited to 52 games by two injuries this past season, including a torn triceps muscle. Asked to describe his game, he said the Blackhawks are getting a big, two-way center for every situation that happens in a game.

He isn't ready project a statistical increase while playing with Kane, but Anisimov is anxious to join the Blackhawks and see how it goes.

"It's a very good team," he said. "[They have] very good, talented players. They play the game so well. The past six years, three Stanley Cups, it's very good. I'm really excited to join this team and I look forward to playing."

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