Since February, 2018 all signs have pointed to Russian superstar Artemi Panarin leaving the Columbus Blue Jackets for free agency in search of a HUGE payday in the 2019 offseason. But, yesterday reports starting to surface that maybe, POSSIBLY, Panarin had had a change of heart and was considering opening negotiations with the Blue Jackets.
First, Aaron Portzline of The Athetlic reported that Panarin met with his agent this past weekend to discuss the possibility of opening contract negotiations with Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekkalainen.
Meanwhile Kekkalainen declined to comment on the developments, waiting instead for his chance to speak directly with Panarin and his representation.
Well… bad news, Jarmo. It seems Panarin and agent Dan Milstein are unwilling to negotiate until the offseason. Panarin, via Milstein, released a statement on Twitter just moments ago re-iterating that he’s unwilling to negotiate a new contract in-season.
Check it out:
Ouch… that hurts. Sorry, CBJ fans. To make matters worse, Chicago Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane who was Panarin’s linemate and best friend during the latter’s time in Chicago was openly petitioning for a Second City return for Panarin this offseason.
Rumors of a Panarin/Kane reunion in Chicago have swirled for months now, and it’s clear that Kane would love to have his buddy back.
‘‘Yeah, of course,’’ Kane said at this past weekend's NHL All Star Game. ‘‘We had so much chemistry together. It was fun playing with him. Artemi’s a great kid, too, so we had a lot of fun off the ice, and I think it translated on the ice because we were having so much fun. ‘‘Who knows what’s gonna happen to him next year, but it would be fun to play with him again.’’
And here’s the kicker… after years of being trapped in NHL Salary Cap Hell, the Blackhawks could have nearly $30 million in cap space this upcoming offseason if they let all their UFAs walk and manage to trade forward Artem Anisimov. So, it’s clear they’ll have room for Panarin… could a reunion be in the works? And if so, do the Blackhawks suddenly vault back into the playoff picture?