GM Jarmo Kekalainen and the Blue Jackets knew what they were getting into when they held on to top impending free agents Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovksy, despite substantial hints that both planned to depart, and then went out and added another valued UFA in Matt Duchene at the NHL Trade Deadline. Columbus went all in, and while they didn’t win or even reach the Stanley Cup, they did succeed in winning the franchise’s first ever playoff round. Now, as they get set to potentially watch several star player walk away as free agents, Kekalainen and company are going to either squeeze every last drop out of those UFA’s or at least won’t make it any easier for them to jump to rival teams. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the Blue Jackets have declined to give Panarin and Bobrovksy permission to talk to other teams about a sign-and-trade possibility. They have also kept the price of acquiring their negotiating rights high; LeBrun speculates the team is asking for a second-round pick. As the June 23rd UFA negotiation period approaches, and not long after it the start of free agency on July 1st, it seems Panarin and Bobrovsky are likely to remain Blue Jackets until the very last minute, unless a team ponies up. As for Duchene, the Blue Jackets remain interested in re-signing him, so similar rumors haven’t started yet, but don’t expect the deadline addition to be treated any differently if it comes to that.
- Columbus has likely lost hope of re-signing their top free agents, but San Jose is still holding out when it comes to Erik Karlsson. Karlsson is set to be the top defenseman on the market, but the Sharks would like him to skip that opportunity in favor of remaining with the team. The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz writes that the two sides continue to work on an extension, with terms rumored to be close to the eight-year, $88MM contract signed by Drew Doughty of the rival Los Angeles Kings. Barring a trade in the coming weeks, only San Jose can offer Karlsson that eighth year, which may be even more valuable to the veteran defenseman given his recurring injury issues this season. Kurz agrees that the market may have cooled for Karlsson, so a long-term offer from the Sharks will very likely be the best deal he gets. This makes his decision less about salary and more about whether San Jose is where Karlsson wants to potentially spend the rest of his career.
- Misinformation is very common in draft and free agency season, so it should come as little surprise that one Denver source says the Avalanche are interested in drafting defenseman Bowen Byram just days after another said they weren’t. Byram is undoubtedly the best defenseman in the draft class, so no team with the chance to draft him is going to totally ignore him. The WHL product could go as early as No. 3 to the Chicago Blackhawks, but likely won’t get any farther than No. 6 to the Detroit Red Wings. Colorado falls squarely in the middle there at fourth overall and will surely consider Byram. But if Mike Chambers of The Denver Post is to be believed, the Avs will take the “best player available” route with their first of two first-round picks and would select Byram if he’s there. We won’t know for sure how it all plays out for just over one more week.