Once seemingly the saviour of the Columbus Blue Jackets‘ offensive attack, the missing piece for a contender on the cusp, Artemi Panarin‘s tenure in Ohio is quickly becoming a handful for general manager Jarmo Kekalainen.
After initial reports of the Jackets testing the market for their star winger due to his unwillingness to negotiate an extension with the club, Panarin and Kekalainen met earlier this month to discuss the best course forward. Little was accomplished during that meeting, however, with the Russian’s agent, Daniel Milstein, characterizing the meeting as “a good conversation,” but with “no contract progress” made.
Now it appears Panarin and his representatives are making moves to nudge the situation towards a resolution. The winger has set a Sept. 13 deadline to discuss his current situation with the club, according to The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline, after which all off-ice discussions will be tabled.
That particular date — the start of training camp — means the Blue Jackets front office has roughly two months to either convince the winger to negotiate an extension (which still appears unlikely) or facilitate a trade. If neither occurs, it appears Panarin would prefer to play out the 2018-19 season with negotiations set aside, leaving all discussions of an extension until next summer, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Complicating matters is the fact that Panarin’s current deal doesn’t come with any form of a no-trade clause, according to CapFriendly. That being the case, Kekalainen could move the winger at any time during the 2018-19 season, up until the 2019 trade deadline.
Panarin’s camp does still have some sway over a potential deal, though, given his current unwillingness to sign an extension. It’s unlikely an opposing club would give up significant assets in a trade for the talented winger without any assurances of him being open to a long-term extension. And it appears, given this September deadline, that such assurances won’t be coming during the regular season.
“Artemi loves hockey. He hates the business side of hockey,” Milstein told Portzline Thursday. “When the season starts, the focus can only be on playing. He’s going to play his best and give his best to the hockey club.”
According to Portzline, the Blue Jackets have received several offers for the young Russian star, though all have involved future assets as opposed to immediate help. Meanwhile, the team has received no official list of preferred destinations from Panarin or his agent.
Panarin is set to earn $6 million in 2018-19, playing out the second half of a two-year pact signed with Chicago back in 2016. However, a rising salary cap and a sterling debut for Columbus last season — a career-high 82 points, the most ever posted by a Blue Jacket in one campaign — will likely bring a significant rise in pay for the smooth-skating winger.