With the team’s work with their restricted free agents now complete, Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen now has time to work on more important projects for the team. The GM’s top priority is to attempt to talk to star Artemi Panarin and try and talk him into signing a long-term deal. Now, NHL.com’s Igor Eronko reports that Kekalainen intends to meet with Panarin in France on Monday.
Panarin, who will be an unrestricted free agent next season, could become the headline superstar available to teams like John Tavares was this offseason. The 26-year-old originally signed with the Chicago Blackhawks and was traded a year ago to Columbus to alleviate salary cap issues. He posted excellent numbers with the Blue Jackets in the first season, putting upu 27 goals and a career-high 82 points. He has already stated that he isn’t willing to discuss an extension “as of now,” and it has been suggested by his agent Dan Milstein that the Blue Jackets might be better off trading him now.
Kekalainen obviously hopes that he can either convince Panarin to consider signing an extension soon or be convinced that he will have to make a trade to get Panarin to a team that he wants to play for.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins locked up defenseman Jamie Oleksiak to a three-year, $6.4MM deal a few days ago, but it shows how far the 6-foot-7, 255-pound blueliner has come, according to Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Unable to break into the Stars’ lineup throughout the first five years of his career, he found himself traded to Pittsburgh where assistant coaches Jacques Martin and Sergei Gonchar altered his entire game like the franchise has done in the last few years with other blueliners such as Justin Schultz, Ian Cole and Chad Ruhwedel. Using film, they have worked on his defensive skills, penalty killing, his shot and his stickhandling to start and have high expectations for him next season. His offense has already started as in 47 games with Pittsburgh he posted four goals and 14 points.
- Shayna Goldman of The Athletic (subscription required) breaks down the New York Rangers restricted free agency dilemma, especially looking at what to do with defenseman Brady Skjei in regards to giving the blueliner a bridge deal or long-term deal. The scribe looks back to forward Kevin Hayes, also a restricted free agent, who received a two-year bridge deal, but now will cost the team quite a bit of money. Skjei, who is coming off a down year, might be better off with a bridge deal to see what kind of player he becomes over the next two seasons. However, a long-term deal might also be quite beneficial because it would come at a lower cost. Even if he doesn’t become more than a third-pairing defenseman, a low-cost long-term deal has quite a bit of trade value as well.