Star forward Artemi Panarin was one of the biggest turning point in the Columbus Blue Jackets' recent success, however, it seems like the happy story may be short lived. With the unrestricted free agency looming in the 2019 offseason for Panarin, the situation in Columbus seems to be getting quite complicated. A recent report from Sportsnet analyst and NHL insider Elliotte Friedman revealed that Panarin has told the Blue Jackets that he’s not interested in signing a contract extension “at this time" and as a result the Jackets have placed Panarin on the trade block.
The announcement of a possible trade surprised many, especially since the Russian has one year remaining on his current deal and is set to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2018-19 campaign. We are pretty sure GM Jarmo Kekalainen has gotten loads of calls for the talented forward and it might be weighing heavily on his mind now... given Panarin's skill and history of point production, it was expected that multiple teams would line up strong offers for the talented 26 year old sniper.
You have to imagine that the Chicago Blackhawks would be interested if indeed Panarin ends up on the trade block, as he had tremendous success when paired with superstar Patrick Kane.
But not so fast...
This all has seemed to have convinced Kekalainen to beg Panarin to stay in Columbus. According to Aaron Portzline of The Athletic, the Blue Jackets general manager plans to meet with Panarin this summer in Europe to map out a plan to limit distractions as he plays on an expiring contract.
Portzline however notes that the Blue Jackets could still move Panarin if they receive a trade offer that includes current NHL players who could have an immediate impact on the roster, as opposed to the offers that focused more of the future and young prospects like the ones they've received to date.
It is recently been reported that Panarin is looking to play for a bigger market team. On Saturday, Larry Brooks of The New York Post explained this very reason:
"Artemi Panarin’s decision not to engage in negotiations for an extension with the Blue Jackets was motivated solely by his desire to play and live in a major market. You (and more to the point, he) can take it to the bank that the Rangers will be all in if the transcendent Bread Man reaches free agency next summer."
Let's see how Kekalainen can convince him to stay in Columbus...