Ramblings: Panarin Extends, Murray and Barkov Hurt (Dec 29)

by steve laidlaw on December 29, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Panarin Extends, Murray and Barkov Hurt (Dec 29)

The fantasy impact of Panarin's extension, injuries to Barkov and Matt Murray, and more.


Artemi Panarin signed a two-year contract extension with the Blackhawks at $6M annually. That’s a pretty good deal for the Blackhawks in the short term. Presumably, Panarin was looking for something in the neighbourhood of Jakub Voracek’s long term deal but that was impossible for the Blackhawks with their cap situation. Even at $6M for Panarin, the Blackhawks have $59M tied up in nine players, including Panarin, Toews, Kane, Keith, Seabrook, Anisimov, Hossa, Crawford, Hjalmarsson. They also have another $3M in Marcus Kruger, assuming he isn’t lost in the expansion draft. Hell, the Blackhawks might be hoping that he is.

That’s a great core but unless the salary cap continues upward they are looking at about $11M to fill the second half of their roster. They’ll be pinching pennies once again. The good news is that they’ve got youngsters on entry-level deals who are gaining experience this season. Guys like Tyler Motte, Ryan Hartman, Vinnie Hinostroza and Gustav Forsling will all be back next year, likely offering more than they have thus far.

Long term, I don’t think Panarin will be sticking around in Chicago. He will hit unrestricted free agency after this deal at the age of 27. That’s when he’ll cash in big time and the Blackhawks do not look positioned to be the ones who do the paying. Even with Kruger and Hjalmarsson coming off the books at the same time as Panarin, the Blackhawks still have too many lengthy deals to commit to Panarin.

Maybe they’ll make it work. They have always found a way to keep their absolute best players around but I don’t see it. But this is all far enough away that fantasy owners shouldn’t be concerned. The Panarin, Patrick Kane, Artem Anisimov trio is locked in for two and a half more seasons, which should perform at an elite level.

Kane will remain a top-four RW for the next couple of years and then will be 31 when Panarin hits unrestricted free agency, potentially tumbling down the rungs. There is some indication that Panarin is driving the dominance of this line as much as Kane:

It’s interesting that Chicago’s ability to stay afloat territorially has seemingly been dependant on whether or not Panarin has been on the ice. With him out there, the Blackhawks have controlled 57.5 per cent of all shots attempted during the course of five-on-five play. Without him, that number dips all of the way down to 46.9 per cent.

This isn’t to suggest that Kane will turn into a pumpkin once he hits 31 and Panarin leaves. Kane’s vision and playmaking is suggestive of a player who will age well. There could also be new talent arriving to help keep Kane afloat in a couple of years. For instance, Alex DeBrincat is a junior scoring star likely on a timeline to arrive in 2019 or 2020.

Anisimov will also be 31 once Panarin’s deal expires and I have much less confidence about his ability to sustain high scoring rates. He has emerged as a top net-front presence but those skills can erode quickly.

Ultimately, this is a long way away. A lot can change. The cap could jump. Injuries could pile up. New talent could emerge. If you are planning beyond two or three years in a keeper league you really need to question that timeline. I don’t know many who have the patience to rebuild for more than one season. Planning too long down the road is the first step towards perpetual rebuilding. If you’ve got Anisimov, Kane or Panarin in a keeper league, you should feel great about this signing. You’ve got two and a half more years of awesome.

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This isn’t exactly what I was thinking in remaining steadfast that Marc-Andre Fleury would be heard from but it was one such possibility. It’s why if you have a tandem situation you want both halves of the tandem, even if one seems to be pulling ahead.

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More injury news as Aleksander Barkov left last night’s contest. No concrete information but indications are that he will miss a few games. Barkov’s been injury prone so no surprise here. He has missed an average of 18 games per season through three years in the league.

Barkov being out ends his hot streak but it also thrusts Vincent Trocheck into the #1 centerman role. He got the Jonathan Marchessault treatment for a good deal of last night’s game as they each scored two points. Good opportunity for Trocheck to finally get things going. Same for Jussi Jokinen, although he was held scoreless.

Jaromir Jagr won’t be enjoying the absence of his meal ticket in Barkov. Probably time to dump him again.

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When I saw that Robby Fabbri had been dropped to the third line and second power play unit, I had some concerns but he went apeshit scoring a hat-trick in just 13:58 of ice time.

Fabbri has 11 points in his last 10 games but most of those points came while on a line with Vladimir Tarasenko. No guarantees of that when the Blues have their full compliment of forwards. Fabbri will still get turns on the top line and on the top PP unit but if the Blues stay healthy he won’t be used there permanently. Check out the lines from last night:

21.1%    BERGLUND,PATRIK – FABBRI,ROBBY – JASKIN,DMITRIJ

20.2%    BRODZIAK,KYLE – REAVES,RYAN – UPSHALL,SCOTTIE

18.3%    LEHTERA,JORI – STEEN,ALEXANDER – TARASENKO,VLADIMIR

16%        PERRON,DAVID – SCHWARTZ,JADEN – STASTNY,PAUL

Guys like Jaden Schwartz, Paul Stastny and Alex Steen are all injury prone so it stands to reason Fabbri will find his way into the top six soon enough. Also, Ken Hitchcock is a notorious tinkerer.

You cannot dump Fabbri because he is hot but once he cools off you should consider making a waiver wire trip.

Steen needs the minutes alongside Tarasenko more than Fabbri does anyhow. He has just three points in the last 10 games and continues to look out of sorts. Is he full-on declining or is this still the effects of off-season surgery? I think he’s headed towards Marian Hossa territory, which is still fantastic, mind you. It does however require you lower your expectations in terms of fantasy production. Even there, Hossa has proven he can flash brilliance at this stage.

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Sean Couturier made his return to the Flyer lineup after over a month off due to injury. He skated 18:15 centering the third line and second PP unit. He was held scoreless. Check out the lines:

#1           24.9%    GIROUX,CLAUDE – LEIER,TAYLOR – VORACEK,JAKUB

#2           23%        KONECNY,TRAVIS – SCHENN,BRAYDEN – SIMMONDS,WAYNE

#3           20.2%    COUSINS,NICK – COUTURIER,SEAN – WEISE,DALE

#4           10.3%    BELLEMARE,PIERRE-EDOUARD – LYUBIMOV,ROMAN – VANDEVELDE,CHRIS

The trio of Couturier, Travis Konecny and Jakub Voracek had looked really good early on and I wondered if they would go back to it upon Couturier’s return but Brayden Schenn has performed well at the center position, which gives them alternatives. Ultimately, Couturier was never going to be a huge fantasy asset because he won’t see top unit PP time but in the perfect season a #2 centerman can get to 60 points only seeing secondary PP time. This scenario looks completely cooked and not just because of his injury. I doubt he’ll score at even a 50-point pace with linemates like the above. Of course, there will be some mixing and matching as the season goes on so there may be hope yet.

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Tampa Bay got reinforcements with Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat returning to reform the Triplets line with Tyler Johnson. They each notched two points. It could be time to jump back on board with Palat.

It wasn’t all rosy for the Lightning. They were without both Cedric Paquette and Valtteri Filppula. Filppula was officially scratched but there are murmurs of an injury. Ryan Callahan and Steven Stamkos are both still shelved and neither Vladislav Namestnikov nor Brayden Point finished the game. No officially word on the latter two but the expectation is that there will be more callups made today. YIKES!

Check out the hit from Shea Weber that knock Namestnikov from the game:

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Justin Faulk is week-to-week with a lower-body injury again. In other news, winter is cold.

But hey, Faulk’s injury opened a slot for Ryan Murphy to crack the lineup! Murphy skated 18 minutes and notched an assist. No power plays for Carolina last night so we can’t find out the most important factor but I presume he will at least see secondary PP time. I am more interested in Jaccob Slavin and Noah Hanifin than Murphy but he’s notable.

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A couple of weeks ago, I begrudged the use of Jake Gardiner as the Leafs’ #1 PP defenseman. Boy, do I ever look stupid. Gardiner has nine points in his last nine games with six of those on the power play. I still think Morgan Rielly is more talented but you can’t knock what has been working.

Since we are listing things I have been completely wrong about, Freddie Andersen was the one goalie who I jumped off of completely after his slow start. I was lucky enough to snag him in one league to replace an injured Ben Bishop. He might be my best goalie on a team with Andersen, Bishop, Cory Schneider and Connor Hellebuyck.

Related: the Leafs continue to linger in the playoff hunt. The Metro has five spots locked down so the Atlantic is only getting three spots. Assuming the Habs are in and that the Lightning will figure their way into a spot as well, you only have one spot for Ottawa, Boston, Toronto or Florida. I don’t think the Leafs are the favourites but they are in the hunt. Things are headed in the right direction. I say all this for two reasons:

1. Andersen appears set to continue to be a strong option.

2. Over these holidays I have had conversations with several jaded Leaf fans who still do not have faith in this team.

Seriously, things looking up. Auston Matthews is a genuine franchise guy. He might be a top-20 player next season.

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Thanks for reading! Follow me @SteveLaidlaw.