11:30pm: Midnight has come and gone in the eastern time zone without an announced contract for Panarin. The Blue Jackets can now only offer him a seven-year contract like any other team. Adrian Dater of Colorado Hockey Now reports that the Avalanche also offered a six-year, $70MM ($11.67MM AAV) deal to Panarin, though Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet was told an even higher amount.
9:39pm: For most of the last year, all signs pointed to Artemi Panarin leaving the Columbus Blue Jackets for another team on July 1 as the top free agent available. The Florida Panthers had been rumored for months to be interested in acquiring his services, and then earlier today a report surfaced that he might be heading to the New York Islanders instead. Now in a late-night push the Blue Jackets have put their best offer on the table, one that Aaron Portzline of The Athletic (subscription required) reports is believed to be for eight years at an average annual value of $12MM. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun has heard the same, though Portzline suggests it could be even higher than that.
Panarin was the consensus top choice in our Top 50 UFAs this season, and is a superstar talent that can create offense all on his own. The most interesting part of the offer is that the Blue Jackets can only technically offer an eighth year until midnight (EST), after which they would be in the same position as any other team only able to offer seven seasons. With reports surfacing that the Blue Jackets’ other top free agents, Matt Duchene and Sergei Bobrovsky will be leaving town, it is obvious that GM Jarmo Kekalainen wanted to take one more crack at keeping one of his stars.
Currently the highest paid player in the league is Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid who signed an eight-year, $100MM deal quickly after becoming eligible for an extension. Panarin though would easily become the highest paid winger in the league with a deal like this, and shatter the market set by players like Mark Stone and Nikita Kucherov in recent years. Patrick Kane, who signed his current deal back in 2014, currently carries a $10.5MM cap hit while Alex Ovechkin is more than a decade into his 13-year contract which carries a cap hit of $9.54MM.