It’s been a wild off-season for NHL clubs looking to add some dynamic offensive skill to their rosters.
While John Tavares swapped orange for blue as a free agent and talks continue regarding a potential Erik Karlsson deal, another game changer is waiting in the wings, potentially set for relocation as well.
In June, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Columbus Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin could also be available due to the winger’s unwillingness to negotiate an extension past the 2018-19 campaign, in which he’ll play out the final season of a two-year, $12-million deal signed with Chicago.
Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen told Friedman at the time that the club would prefer to keep Panarin in Columbus long-term — no surprise given the winger’s franchise-best 82 points last season — and feels both sides have plenty of time to iron out a solution.
On Sunday, Panarin’s agent, Daniel Milstein, provided an update on his client’s position in a lengthy interview with The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline, confirming that the winger informed the Blue Jackets before the 2018 draft of his indecision regarding an extension with the club.
It appears the central issues for the former Chicago Blackhawk are the term of a potential deal and simply the franchise’s location, as Panarin hasn’t yet decided whether he wants to spend much of the next decade in Columbus, according to his agent.
“[Panarin] loves the team, he loves the coach. It’s not the team or the way they treat him,” Milstein explained to Portzline. “It’s about, does he want to spend the next eight years in Columbus? That’s the only thing at stake right now. If it was a two-year deal we probably would have done it.
“But it isn’t a two-year deal. It’s gonna have to be an extended, seven- or eight-year deal put in place.”
Milstein also confirmed that Kekalainen is indeed still testing the waters on a trade for the dynamic winger, though it appears nothing significant has materialized up to this point.
“Jarmo’s trying to find a trade partner,” Milstein said. “And if the team wants to know about his long-term plans, Jarmo would have to give (the opposing GM) permission to speak with me. I have not asked (Kekalainen) to speak to any clubs and, certainly, he hasn’t asked me if I would be willing to talk to any clubs. I believe all (30) clubs would love to have him, but I can’t see anybody trading for him without picking up the phone and checking with me first.”
There’s no question Panarin would serve as a marquee upgrade for any team able to add his elite scoring touch to their attack. Through three seasons in the big leagues, he’s amassed 233 points in 244 games, coming up with more than a few highlight-reel displays along the way.
Friedman pointed to the Kings, Rangers, Islanders, Lightning, and Panthers as potential destinations for the smooth-skating winger.
The Kings and Panthers have begun working to upgrade their forward corps already via the additions of Ilya Kovalchuk and Mike Hoffman, respectively. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, reportedly remains in on the efforts to lure Karlsson away from Ottawa, while the Rangers and Islanders could both certainly use an upgrade in star power given the roster turnover seen in each dressing room over the past year.