It’s not exactly a secret that Columbus Blue Jackets stars Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky are hot commodities on the trade market. For the past calendar year all signs have pointed to both players leaving the team via free agency and now it’s up to Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen to find the best possible return for his two star pending UFAs.
Last week reports began to surface that indicated the Florida Panthers are interested in acquiring both Panarin and Bobrovsky, likely as a prelude to offering them both long-term, eight year contracts so as to scoop them up from other potential suitors on the free agent market.
The Boston Bruins have also been linked to Panarin in trade talks, as have the Nashville Predators. Both teams make sense as they’re legitimate Stanley Cup contenders, unlike the Panthers and the New York Rangers who are also reportedly in hot pursuit of The Bread Man.
Now, according to a report from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, a new darkhorse candidate could come into play: the Los Angeles Kings.
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I’m wondering if Los Angeles makes a play for Panarin. The Kings aren’t interested in a lengthy rebuild, and southern California is believed to be high on the winger’s list of priorities. They could wait until June, but the benefit of getting him now is the eighth year. Los Angeles has two first-rounders (their own and Toronto’s from the Jake Muzzin trade), and have asked a high price for Tyler Toffoli — but that seems an enticing package. Columbus was in on Ilya Kovalchuk, but he has control over where he goes and the Blue Jackets might not want him for two more seasons. Such a move would certainly breathe new life into L.A.
It’s a move that certainly makes a lot of sense if Kings GM Rob Blake is looking to turn things around quickly. The Kings have the cap space to fit Panarin longterm and he reportedly would prefer to live on “one of the coasts.” But, you have to really wonder why Panarin would leave a team like the Blue Jackets who look to be on the upswing, for a team like the Kings who look like their time has passed them by.