Columbus Blue Jackets fans are still buzzing over Artemi Panarin‘s gamebreakinig performance last year. With a new contract looming, the “Bread Man” is about to collect a substantial amount of dough.
Anyone who watched the Columbus Blue Jackets last season understands the excitement surrounding the electric Russian winger. Coming over from Chicago with a two year deal in hand, it was inevitable the Bread Man would be due for a large contract. Panarin peaked at the right time with a franchise record 82 points last season and is set to collect from it.
Trying to predict player contracts is an imperfect science so you draw as many parallels as you can to make sense of it. Panarin’s eligible for a new deal as of July 1, so now is the time to consider what he might get. All of this assuming he’ll stay in Columbus of course. As of right now, nothing hints at his departure.
With a year left on his current contract at $6 million per, the winger is going to see a significant pay bump. Fellow CBJ winger Cam Atkinson just inked a seven year, $41M deal before the beginning of last season. Atkinson is undoubtedly talented, but he’s never scratched 82 points and he can’t take over a game like Panarin can.
In looking for comparable offensive players, Steven Stamkos comes to mind. Like Panarin, the Lightning forward is consistently averaging around 80 points a season and is just a year older (27). Stamkos’ eight year contract is bonus heavy, but collectively he makes $9.5M per year.
Not so ironically, maybe another comparable player is Artemi’s fellow countryman Evgeny Kuznetsov. Even though he plays center, the Washington forward signed a very similar contract to Stamkos going into 2017-2018. Kuznetsov too signed for 8 years, but is set to earn just a smidge more at $10M annually. As much as it hurts to think of Panarin collecting in the $9-10M per range, it’s a pill Jackets fans and brass will likely be content to swallow.
Agents leverage similar players’ contracts all the time to get max dollars. This is standard practice and I can see Bread’s Ukrainian representative (Dan Milstein) using either Stamkos, Kuznetsov or both to try and get Artemi in the double digits. Once you hit $10.9M per year, you’ve reached Sydney Crosby territory. That should give Jarmo and company some sort of negotiating pushback.
As far as length of deal, NHL teams are notorious for extending their superstars if and when possible. Nearly every top player in the league tends to sign for eight years or more. The question is, will Panarin be as electric at 34-years old? Most would argue no, but they did just sign Atkinson through 34.
Certainly the organization is still kicking themselves over the Dubinsky contract that takes him up to – you guessed it, 34. Even beloved captain Nick Foligno‘s six year, $5.5M per contract through 2021 is starting to feel shaky.
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It’s fair to say the Jackets haven’t fared incredibly well with long-term deals thus far. That being said, the pendulum has to swing back right? Eventually, one or more of these extensive contracts should work in favor of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Eight years still feels like a lot for Panarin. To keep him in Columbus though, CBJ brass might have to stretch their ideal terms.
The last thing many tend to look over when focusing on numbers is a player’s desire to stay on team X, Y or Z. Without a doubt this year is the year for Panarin to get paid. A career-ending injury is always one play away and he took that two year contract in Chicago to set himself up for “the big one.” This contract is that. This too in many ways negates any worry he might wait a season and look around to play elsewhere.
Panarin could test the free agent market come next July but it’s likely he’ll cash in while he can. Coming off a season high in points, playing on a contender and pushing towards 30, it makes sense to sign an extension before the season kicks off.
Until then, Columbus Blue Jackets fans and executives alike will speculate on the damage. Ultimately, I can’t see Panarin making less than $9/M per as he should push right into the $10/M range. No matter the exact total, the Bread Man is set to earn a lot of dough.