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When standout rookie winger Artemi Panarin chose the Chicago Blackhawks as his NHL team over the likes of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, the structure of his contract raised eyebrows.
Panarin could have signed for an entry-level maximum salary of $925,000. Instead, he inked a deal with the Blackhawks that earned him $812,500. At the time, his decision was seen as trading salary for the obvious benefits of playing with Chicago – that whole Stanley Cup dynasty thing, for example. Receiving less attention: The fact that Tom Lynn, his agent, was betting that Panarin would hit the bonus levels of the incentive-laden contract that dropped his initial cap hit for the Blackhawks.
As the Calder Trophy frontrunner – depending on your feelings about Shayne Gostisbehere and Connor McDavid – he’s on his way to getting those bonuses, as Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times notes:
With 25 goals and 37 assists in just 67 games, Panarin’s basically a lock to hit his “Schedule A” bonuses, which are worth $850,000. If he manages to finish in the Top 10 in the league in just one of the following categories — goals, assists, points, points per game — or win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP or be named a postseason NHL All-Star, it’ll trigger his “Schedule B” bonus, which is worth a hefty $1.725 million.
Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals is 10th in points at 63; Panarin has 62. Matt Duchene is 10th with 29 goals; Panarin has 25. Joe Pavelski is 10th in points per game at 0.97; Pararin is at 0.93.
So that “Schedule B” bonus isn’t out of the question, even before the possibility that he’s a postseason All-Star choice. Which would be bad cap news for the Hawks, as Lazerus writes:
Because the Hawks are so tight against the cap right now, most of that bonus would count against next year’s cap as an overage. So if Panarin finishes in the top 10 in points, which is very possible, the Hawks would get hit with about $2.3 million in extra cap hit, per generalfanager.com. That’s on top of Panarin’s $812,500 salary.
If Panarin doesn’t hit the big bonus, the overage will be about $575,000.
The better the Breadman does, the more bread it'll cost the Blackhawks on the cap.
Now, it’s a time-honored tradition that teams sit young players in order for them not to trigger this clause or that clause. Joel Quenneville, at the moment, ain’t playing that game, via the Sun-Times: “We want to see players do the best they can, and we’re not going to get in the way of success.”
That said … would anyone be surprised to see Panarin get some well-deserved rest down the stretch if it meant the Blackhawks potentially saving $1.4 million against their cap? Considering the playoffs are in the bag and Stan Bowman manages their finances down to the half-cent?
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