Artemi Panarin and the Columbus Blue Jackets ain’t talking.
That’s the information that came down Monday, with the forward’s agent Dan Milstein issuing a statement about his client’s future. Any potential contract talks will take place “after the season.”
Panarin will be an unrestricted free agent come July 1.
Now, this is a loaded issue for Columbus and their fanbase and this statement can’t help.
Basically, this is a stalling tactic that puts negotiations off again. Most in the know believe that Panarin is out of Columbus sooner or later. He’s been eligible to ink a new contract since July 1…of 2018. They were trying to get something hammered out in September, but talks fell through.
Panarin is the points-leader for the Blue Jackets, with 53 in 46 games.
But his off-ice distractions haven’t endeared him to the organization and general manager Jarmo Kekalainen has been trying to hold it all together. He wasn’t available for comment Monday about the Panarin situation, but it’s believed the team could issue some sort of statement Tuesday.
Back on January 21, however, Kekalainen spoke with the Blue Jackets website.
“I feel great about our core, and it’s only going to get better,” he said. “I’ve said it many times, we had 108 points in the regular season before Artemi Panarin arrived. That’s not to slight Artemi at all. We love him, he’s a great player and he makes our team better, and if for some reason he doesn’t want to stay here we’ll move along and we’ll be a strong team in the future as well. We hope he stays.”
It’s not hard to read between the lines there and you have to imagine Panarin’s current bearing is at least moderately a reaction to the attitude from the club. In other words, the door swings both ways.
Columbus is third in the Metropolitan Division and will be back in action against Buffalo on Tuesday.
And Panarin, to his credit no doubt, wants to finish the season out and focus on hockey.
But the business side of hockey differs from the personal side and that’s where Kekalainen has decisions to make.
With the clock running and consultations off the table, the choices are obvious. He can trade Panarin before the deadline – a scenario that is growing likelier by the day – or wait for the minuscule window between season’s end and free agency on July 1.
The latter carries the risk of losing Panarin for nothing and for good.
And with Columbus facing a comparable state of affairs with goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, you have to imagine Kekalainen is in no mood to give off the appearance that he’s the sort of GM to get pushed around by his players and/or their agents.
(Photo credit: NHL)