Even in a relatively quiet summer for the Blue Jackets, in which the team has only added Riley Nash as a bona fide piece of their roster and taken fliers on Anthony Duclair, Adam Clendening, and Ryan MacInnis, Columbus has nevertheless been one of the more talked-about teams this off-season. With two of the biggest potential 2019 free agents currently employed as well as the most prominent remaining 2018 free agent possibly considering a comeback, the Blue Jackets could still make headlines before the season begins. The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline addresses these issues and more in his latest article:
- Portzline writes that there is no traction on extensions for either Artemi Panarin or Sergei Bobrovsky as they enter the final year of their respective contracts. The duo will almost certainly enter the season without a new deal, as has been expected for Panarin, and where things go from there remains unclear. It has already been noted that the team is not actively in talks with Bobrovsky, and that could partly be due to Portzline’s assertion that he is looking for “Carey Price money”; the Canadiens’ star goaltender signed an eight-year, $84MM extension last summer. However, given the almost immediate regret felt by Montreal over that contract, the Blue Jackets may be content to ride the season out with Bobrovsky and see whether his performance and health dictate similar terms. Although Bobrovsky is an elite goaltender, he would share next summer’s market with Pekka Rinne, Mike Smith, Semyon Varlamov, Cam Talbot, Jimmy Howard, and more and may land his biggest payday if he sticks with Columbus.
- Meanwhile, Portzline also adds that the likelihood of a Panarin trade prior to the season is as equally unlikely as an extension. Despite talks all off-season long, it seems like no offers got past what he describes as the “futures” stage, while the contender-quality Blue Jackets would prefer immediate help in any Paranin deal. A trade could still happen at some point during the season, and even seems likely, but it won’t be anytime soon. Panarin has not even supplied GM Jarmo Kekalainen with his list of preferred destinations yet. Although, Portzline suggests the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, and Florida Panthers could top that hypothetical list, while Panarin was previously linked to the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks.
- Portzline also writes that the team has stayed in contact with Rick Nash throughout this off-season and even made an offer soon after the market opened. They have also had face-to-face meetings with the former Blue Jackets superstar about returning to Columbus. While Nash asked teams for space this summer as he decides on his playing future, being careful to consider his mounting injuries, if he does choose to keep playing it would be for a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. The Blue Jackets and Boston Bruins continue to be the most likely destinations.