The Columbus Blue Jackets may be smiling now that they are starting the season with Artemi Panarin on their roster, however, it could be short lived. Panarin's season begins like last year's ended as he remains the offensive focal point for the Blue Jackets, but his future in Columbus remains murky.
The Blue Jackets and Panarin have been facing a contract impasse since the beginning of the summer, as the Russian sniper informed the club he was not looking to sign a contract extension in Columbus. It is believed that Panarin would prefer to play for a bigger hockey market, and is not willing to stay with the Jackets, with whom he ended up after a blockbuster trade that sent him there from the Chicago Blackhawks. Panarin, and star goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, are entering the last year of their contracts.
NHL Insider Pierre LeBrun believes that general manager Jarmo Kekalainen could be looking at two options: keeping Panarin in the fold until the playoffs and try his best to convince him to stay or trade away his best player ahead of the February deadline. However, if the latter takes place, LeBrun believes Panarin will choose the Erik Karlsson route and bring a rental return to the Jackets while waiting to sign with the club that acquires him.
“All signs point to Panarin pulling an Erik Karlsson on them in terms of Erik Karlsson didn’t sign an extension leaving Ottawa either,” said LeBrun during a radio hit on Vancouver’s TSN 1040. “Which really diminished the return that the Senators got for him because he became a pure rental, or at least in theory. We’ll see whether or not he ever re-signs in San Jose. The Sharks certainly hope so.
“But again, if Panarin - and all signs point towards him just wanting to figure out his future after the season - if he doesn’t sign an extension through a trade, it’s going to hurt the Blue Jackets’ return. It’s going to hurt from the sense that a team might just be renting him for two or three months.
“On the other hand, if and when he goes on the trade market there may be a handful of teams that say, ‘Honest to goodness, even for three months this guy might win us a Cup. So am I willing to give even more than a first-round pick for three months of hockey of Artemi Panarin.’
Panarin broke franchise records and set career highs with 55 assists and 82 points last season, his first in Columbus. Of course, Kekalainen does not want to lose him for nothing. Which would hurt the franchise quite a bit.
However, it seems like Panarin will make just about any team wait for his services... Karlsson has revealed he wants to wait and see before he signs a lucrative contract with the Sharks, and he seems to have inspired Panarin in this ongoing saga...