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Blackhawks aiming to hold on to Artemi Panarin

Confident they can re-sign Calder Trophy winner who is restricted free agent next summer

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

CHICAGO -- The future of left wing Artemi Panarin has become a big storyline for the Chicago Blackhawks, with one season remaining on the 24-year-old's entry-level contract.

Panarin, who won the Calder Trophy as the NHL rookie of the year last season, could become a restricted free agent July 1. The Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday that Panarin is seeking a six-year contract worth $36 million.

"I don't think it's a productive thing to kind of negotiate through the media," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said Tuesday at United Center. "Obviously, Artemi is a big part of our team. We're excited for the season he had. We're looking forward to him building on that this year, as well, and then the negotiations will be what they are between his agent and myself."

The Blackhawks were faced with similar situations the past two offseasons with forwards Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw; each time, they traded the pending restricted free agents rather than negotiate a new contract. They'd like to avoid that option with Panarin, who had 77 points (30 goals, 47 assists) in his first NHL season, mostly playing on a line with right wing Patrick Kane, the Hart Trophy winner as NHL most valuable player.

Video: Artemi Panarin wins the Calder Trophy

Panarin is represented by agent Tom Lynn, whose relationship with Bowman began when Lynn was assistant general manager of the Minnesota Wild. That connection contributed to Chicago signing Panarin from the Kontinental Hockey League on May 1, 2015, and Bowman said he thinks it will help in the negotiating process again.

"We're always confident," Bowman said. "You go into a negotiation expecting to get a deal done. That's the way I've been in the past, and that's the way I am now. I respect [Tom Lynn]. He's a very knowledgeable guy. I know Artemi put a lot of faith in him, and Tom and I will work to get something done."

Panarin had a goal and an assist in four games for Team Russia at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 in Toronto. He reached all his NHL performance bonuses last season, which made his contract worth $3,387,500 and caused the Blackhawks to count $2,575,000 of it in bonus overages toward their salary cap this season.

Looking ahead, Chicago may have a tough time signing Panarin to an extension worth as much as he reportedly wants. They have approximately $2.4 million in projected salary-cap space, according to General Fanager, and have forwards Kane (average annual value $10.5 million), Jonathan Toews ($10.5 million), Marian Hossa ($5.275 million) and Artem Anisimov ($4.55 million) signed through at least the 2020-21 season. Defenseman Brent Seabrook is heading into the first year of an eight-year contract with a $6.875 million salary-cap charge.

Bowman didn't lay out a time frame for the negotiating process with Panarin.

"We've done it a lot of different ways," Bowman said. "We've signed guys in season, before a season [and] at the end of a season. There's no hard-and-fast rule. Each negotiation is different, so I wouldn't put any timetables or handicap it one way or the other. It will get done when it gets done."

Until then, Bowman will focus on the Blackhawks this season. After trading or deciding not to re-sign multiple veterans in the past two years because of salary-cap issues, Chicago is looking for prospects to fill vacancies up front.

Bowman opted not to bring any veterans to training camp on a professional tryout offer. A group of rookie forwards that includes Vincent Hinostroza, Nick Schmaltz, Tyler Motte, Ryan Hartman, Tanner Kero, Mark McNeill and Kyle Baun will get the chance to make the roster during the preseason.

"The guys that we have are the ones that are here, and I think our team is going to come from this group," Bowman said. "We've only had a few days of camp here, but I think so far it's been a bright start for these guys. They're all full of energy [and] full of excitement, knowing that they have a chance to make the team."

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