After trading forward Andre Burakovsky to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for second and third-round picks in the 2020 NHL Draft, the Washington Capitals signed forward Richard Panik to a four-year contract with a cap hit of $2.75 million. This kicks off NoVa Caps’ three-part series taking a closer look at the Capitals’ free agent signings.
While the Capitals brought Panik in to play on the third line, he has played in the top-six forward group with the Arizona Coyotes, where he spent last season, and the Chicago Blackhawks. The 28-year old forward has had success playing in a bigger role, scoring at least 14 goals in each of the past three seasons, including a career-high 22 with the Blackhawks in 2016-17 when the team was the top seed in the Western Conference. Panik posted 14 goals (equal to Clayton Keller, the Coyotes’ leading point scorer), 33 points (sixth-highrest on the team), and a -3 rating in 75 games this past season while playing in the middle-six forward group.
In 410 career NHL games with the Coyotes, Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Tampa Bay Lightning, Panik has recorded 75 goals, 159 points, and a +3 rating. He has a shooting percentage of at least 10% in each of the past two seasons and in six of his eight NHL seasons. In the 2018-19 season, he posted 100 shots for the second time in his career.
The Capitals have signed Richard Panik to a four year contract. Panik ranked first among Arizona forwards with at least 50 games played last season in on-ice goals for this season (44) as well as shot attempt percentage (50.96 percent). pic.twitter.com/GO6lf8XC3D
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) July 1, 2019
Panik’s 46 takeaways were tied with Keller for second-most on Arizona and his 52 blocked shots were three behind center Brad Richardson for the team lead. His 137 hits ranked fifth on the Coyotes. It was his second consecutive season with 137 hits. Panik has at least 12 more takeaways than giveaways in each of the last two seasons.
Panik saw his ice-time increase in Arizona as his average of 16:08 in the 2017-18 season was 1:40 more than he was averaging with the Blackhawks. He was trusted more at even-strength by head coach Rick Tocchet in Arizona, averaging north of 13 minutes in each of his two seasons in the desert. Panik averaged 12:29 in the Windy City during the 2017-18 season.
He has averaged at least a minute worth of power-play time, though it went up by more than 53 seconds when he joined the Coyotes compared to when he was with the Blackhawks.
For the first time in his NHL career, Panik was given a serious look playing on the penalty-kill with Arizona, averaging 1:12 of shorthanded ice-time per game and scored a goal on the PK unit last year. He never played on the penalty-kill in Chicago.
Despite the fact that he did not have much experience on the penalty-kill going into the season, Panik was a key contributor to a Coyotes’ shorthanded unit that finished the year tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets for the best penalty-killing efficiency in the league at 85%. Arizona tallied 16 short-handed goals last year, good for second-best in the league.
Panik is expected to slot in on the Capitals’ third-line with center Lars Eller and forward Carl Hagelin after the team lost Burakovsky and forward Brett Connolly due to trade and free agency, respectively. The trio should be a defensively stingy line as all of them regularly play on the penalty kill and are responsible without the puck.
With Richard Panik on the ice at five-on-five last season, the Arizona Coyotes saw an increase in shot attempts within 10 feet of the net relative to the NHL average. Graphics provided by @IneffectiveMath at https://t.co/fxR3jUTvi5 pic.twitter.com/cxAx817M1g
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) July 1, 2019
According to Natural Stattrick, Panik recorded a Corsi-for percentage (shots + blocks + misses for versus against last season) of 50.96% in 2018-19, his lowest in the last three seasons. He recorded percentages of 54.35% and 56.25% in the two previous seasons. Panik has also tallied a Fenwick-for percentage (shots + misses for versus against) of 50.71%, his third time getting at least 50% in the past four seasons.
11 of his goals and 28 of Panik’s points this past season came at five-on-five. He did a great job of creating scoring chances, with 62 high-danger scoring chances. Panik also created 23 rebounds.
Arizona had 51.39% shots-for while Panik was on the ice this past season, though the Coyotes’ goal differential was neutral with him on the ice. His high-danger Corsi-for percentage in 2018-19 was 51.83%, while his goals-for percentage in the high-danger area came in at 55.1%. His team’s netminders have always stopped at least 90.98% of the shots that they face while Panik is on the ice.
Richard Panik is apparently signing in Washington; he drives 5v5 offence well but shouldn’t see power-play minutes if you can help it. Amusingly, he takes and draws a lot of penalties. pic.twitter.com/ABnkGw6Jhg
— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) July 1, 2019
Panik was heavily used by Tocchet in the neutral zone as 209 of his 565 zone starts (37%) came there this past season. Another 195 of his zone starts came in the offensive zone.
Panik, the 52nd overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft by the Lightning, has been fairly productive throughout his NHL career, but he has been traded four times since coming into the league at the beginning of the 2012-13 season.
While losing Connolly hurts, the addition of Panik is a cheaper option who can still produce and chip in defensively more than Connolly. This was a nice addition by General Manager Brian MacLellan. After the team’s third-line struggled with only three goals in seven games during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it was clear that the trio needed a shakeup and this line is one that can compete against anyone the opposition throws at them. If Panik can produce the way that he has in the past three seasons, this will be a heck of a signing for the Capitals.
By Harrison Brown