Though it may have been obvious from their acquisition of Matt Duchene earlier today, the Columbus Blue Jackets aren’t going to give away Artemi Panarin at the deadline for just anything. After swinging a deal to bring in the Ottawa Senators captain, speculation erupted over what it meant for fellow pending free agent Panarin who has been drawing interest from all over the league. GM Jarmo Kekalainen explained exactly how this affects (or fails to affect) the Panarin situation to Brian Hedger of the Columbus Dispatch:
I don’t think this affects that at all. We said right from the start and I think we have stayed consistent with what we’ve said about Panarin. We’re not going to trade Panarin just for draft picks. We’re going to keep our eyes and ears open on what the marketplace looks like. That’s what we have said right from the start. But it would have to be a deal that we can’t refuse. It would have to make sense now and into the future.
The Blue Jackets are obviously trying to win right now and were willing to sacrifice a substantial package of assets to land Duchene. The former Senator was clear that he hasn’t yet agreed to or even talked about an extension with Columbus and is instead just focused on getting the team to the playoffs. To that end, the Blue Jackets are at risk of losing three top free agents this summer including Duchene, Panarin and goaltender Sergei Bobrovksy.
Columbus has been starved for a winner for some time as the organization is still looking for their first playoff series win in franchise history. Today’s acquisition was with that in mind, and so would be any Panarin trade. The deal would have to make the Blue Jackets better—or at least just as good—now, not just into the future. That’s a tall order when it comes to replacing one of the premiere offensive talents in the entire league. Columbus is currently sitting just out of the playoff picture but still believe they have a chance to do some damage in the Metropolitan Division.
Interestingly, another name that has popped up in trade talks over the last few weeks finds himself in the press box tonight. Alexander Wennberg has been made a healthy scratch with Duchene in the lineup, meaning his $4.9MM cap hit will be sitting and watching tonight’s action. Wennberg has struggled this season with just two goals and 23 points through 59 games, but still has four more years on his current deal. Ryan Murray meanwhile has been moved to injured reserve, leading to more speculation that the Blue Jackets could add a piece on defense as well.