LeBrun eyes Panarin situation for Blue Jackets

Artemi Panarin is primed to be one of the most valuable trade chips potentially on the market this season, and now it’s just a matter of waiting to see how the regular season unfolds for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Panarin doesn’t seem willing to sign an extension with his current club, and is set to become an unrestricted free agent with a big payday ahead.

So Jarmo Kekalainen’s plight involves either keeping his stud winger for a possible Cup run this spring and just recouping cap space this summer, or dealing Panarin before the trade deadline in what could become an intriguing bidding war among contenders.

If the latter situation were to unfold though, the return for the Blue Jackets would likely only be for a pure rental though, as opposed to a greater haul for a player either coming with or who would be willing to sign an extension.

“All signs point to Panarin pulling an Erik Karlsson on them in terms of Erik Karlsson didn’t sign an extension leaving Ottawa either,” said NHL Insider Pierre LeBrun during a Tuesday morning radio hit on Vancouver’s TSN 1040. “Which really diminished the return that the Senators got for him because he became a pure rental, or at least in theory. We’ll see whether or not he ever re-signs in San Jose. The Sharks certainly hope so.

“But again, if Panarin - and all signs point towards him just wanting to figure out his future after the season - if he doesn’t sign an extension through a trade, it’s going to hurt the Blue Jackets’ return. It’s going to hurt from the sense that a team might just be renting him for two or three months.

“On the other hand, if and when he goes on the trade market there may be a handful of teams that say, ‘Honest to goodness, even for three months this guy might win us a Cup. So am I willing to give even more than a first-round pick for three months of hockey of Artemi Panarin.’

“Now, I will leave the door open a crack in terms of a signing through a trade if it happens to be one or two of the teams that’s on this so-called list of five teams that I think he would be interested in next summer. He wants to go to a big market team, and whether that’s one of the New York area teams or a Tampa Bay because of where they are in their arc, or in L.A. - whatever it is I think it’s obvious some of the markets that he’s looking at. If those teams step up before the trade deadline, could they entice him to forego July 1 ahead of time. It’s not out of the question.

“I just think that right now, his camp is really focused on doing their best for Columbus right now, playing out the year, and then cashing in in the off-season - which is, by the way, not a crazy thing to do. If you’re a player of his pedigree, and having seen John Tavares just do it, I don’t know why more hockey players don’t, to be quite honest, when they’re a very talented player who happens to have their contract coming up. Why not play the field? I certainly would.”

Panarin’s cap hit is $6 million, and he’s in the second season of a two-year contract.

A little more than half of his contract has been payable in signing bonus money.

Contract-related info via CapFriendly