With 30 goals and 47 assists in his rookie NHL season, Artemi Panarin truly burst on to the scene with the Chicago Blackhawks this season. With the way that the Montreal Canadiens season went, it seems clear that they could have used a player like him in their lineup. And sadly, it almost happened.
Marc de Foy from the Journal de Montreal reported yesterday that Marc Bergevin's assistant, Scott Mellanby, had been following Panarin since the fall of 2014. As interest began building up, more and more teams became interested, but the Canadiens were the first team to really court his services.
He went so far as to ask Sergei Gonchar and Andrei Markov to reach out and talk to him about the team, and the city of Montreal. Panarin's camp was reportedly quite receptive, and he was slated to come and visit Montreal when his KHL season ended.
If Panarin had lost KHL conf final, would've visited Montreal. SKA erased 0-3 deficit, no visit, signed with Chicago https://t.co/ac9PYHqDcv— Аrpon Basu (@ArponBasu) April 13, 2016
That visit never occurred, as Panarin's KHL club went on a tear all the way to the Gagarin in the playoffs. By that point, roughly 12 teams are said to have been in the running to sign him. Bergevin, however, was committed to giving him the best offer of the bunch.
Then Bergevin got a call from Panarin's agent saying that he'd be signing elsewhere. When Bergevin asked whether it was a question of money, he was told that Panarin had in fact accepted slightly less money than offered. So, the potential rookie of the year could have been a Hab, but he took less money not to be.
After how bad this season went, this is basically adding insult to injury. You can read de Foy's report in French by following this link.