One of the more interesting but least discussed topics this summer has been the situation between star forward Artemi Panarin and his current team the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Blue Jackets have made no secret about the fact that they would very much like to retain the services of Panarin on a long term contract extension but by all accounts they have thus far been completely unable to even get to the negotiating table. Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets the $12 million, 2 year deal that was signed by Panarin during his time as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks has left all the cards in his hands and they may be powerless to do anything about it.
Earlier this summer Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen made a trip overseas to visit with his star forward in order to get the ball rolling but it appears that those talks were entirely unsuccessful and thus far there hasn't even been a whisper regarding a new contract. There have however been rumors that Panarin very much intends to leave Columbus as a unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 - 2019 season and it sounds like he may already have his preferred destination in mind.
A new report from Columbus Blue Jackets insider Aaron Portzline has revealed that there is now very serious talk suggesting that Panarin intends to join the New York Rangers organization following the conclusion of his current NHL deal. Portzline is the best in the business when it comes to insider info on the Blue Jackets and if he is reporting this you can safely take it to the bank.
Here’s one theory floating around the NHL among front-office types: Panarin’s desired destination is the New York Rangers. That doesn’t mean he’ll end up in Manhattan, but many believe that’s the club at the top of Panarin’s list.
Not only is Portzline an incredibly reliable journalist when it comes to all things Blue Jackets, but the sheer number of sources that have reported this information leave very little doubt about Panarin's plans. Portzline says that three entirely different sources from within three different NHL organizations have all independently confirmed this same rumor to him and that is terrible news for the Blue Jackets.
If Portzline is aware of this information you can bet that other teams around the National Hockey League are also acutely aware of the fact that Panarin plans to go to the Rangers. This creates two major problems for Columbus as it badly damages the value of Panarin as a trade asset, they could trade him as a rental this season but any team acquiring him will know that his end goal is to land on the Rangers roster, making a contract extension after that trade extremely unlikely.
So why not just trade him to the Rangers you may ask? Well the Rangers are also likely aware of Panarin's interest and given their current rebuild they should feel no pressure at all to make a trade for Panarin this season. Any deal would cost the Rangers valuable assets and if he really does intend to sign in New York they will land him at the end of the season anyways without having to give anything up at all.
It's a terrible position for Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen to be in and I do not envy him at all.
Photo Credit: Aaron Doster/CSM/Zuma