The Chicago Blackhawks are welcoming in an old friend as Artemi Panarin makes his first return to the United Center as a member of the New York Rangers.
The Chicago Blackhawks traded Artemi Panarin to the Columbus Blue Jackets a few seasons ago now. They got back Brandon Saad in return and Saad is a very good player. He is, however, not as good as Panarin and it really isn’t even close. Panarin has developed into one of the very best players in the NHL since his departure from Chicago. Anybody who thought Panarin was only good because of Kane looks very wrong now.
He has returned to United Center as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets but this will be his first time as a member of the New York Rangers where he signed a lucrative deal over this past summer. He is so far, worth every penny of his 11.6 million dollar cap hit. If the Rangers were a little bit closer to playoff contention, Panarin would be in the conversation for the Hart Trophy.
With that said, there is still a hockey game to be played. The Blackhawks are finally back at home after a five-game Western Canadian road trip where they were awful. Their 1-4 run out west has made the playoffs look very bleak. This might be their last chance for management to see a reason not to be complete sellers this trade deadline.
The Rangers have a lot of great players having good years outside of Panarin. They are probably not going to the playoffs, but they have an extremely bright future ahead of them. With forwards like Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome, and Chris Kreider to help Panarin, there is no doubt they can score some goals. They also have a great defense with guys like Jacob Trouba, Adam Fox, and Brady Skjei. Their goaltending is also a solid group, as they use three goalies on their roster which is a bit unusual.
As a nationally televised game, it is important for Chicago to get off to a good start in this one. If the players want to make one last showcase to the management team before some big decisions are made, this is the time to do it. It won’t be easy against a pesky team like the Rangers.