Dreger on Panarin suitors, Panthers’ desire to improve

With Artemi Panarin’s future - or lack thereof - with the Columbus Blue Jackets all but determined, where might the star winger land next?

Darren Dreger had a Wednesday evening radio hit on Toronto’s TSN 1050.

The Insider was asked if he had the Boston Bruins circled in the pursuit of Panarin.

“Well, in that mix I would, yes,” indicated Dreger. “I still want to look at Florida. Maybe it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for Florida to go guns ablazing now. Panarin wants an opportunity, I suppose if he gets traded, to vye for a Stanley Cup. But Florida for me is a real good destination choice for Panarin, if not now then as a free agent.

“I think that the appetite within the Florida Panthers is to get better quickly, both offensively and potentially in goal. So imagine if you could steal two players from the Columbus Blue Jackets, and one would be Artemi Panarin and the other would be Sergei Bobrovsky. That’s not a bad jump-start to wherever you’re at, either at the trade deadline - and it’s unlikely - but certainly as an offseason option.

“But we know that there’s a strong appetite in Boston to add a piece or pieces. I guess what we as Insiders need to determine - what does Jarmo Kekalainen, what do the Columbus Blue Jackets need back to acquire Artemi Panarin.

“And that’s going to change if the player is willing to negotiate and extend his contract. And I’m not sure he is. I’m not sure he is at this point. I’m not sure that this kid doesn’t want to go into free agency and get the full lay of the land, so that he can make an educated decision.”

Panarin is in the final season of a two-year, $12 million contract.

The point was made to Dreger by OverDrive cohost Jeff O’Neill that Panarin “wants the John Tavares situation. He wants to set up shop at a hotel, have teams come in, and say, ‘This is what we got.’ And why wouldn’t you? Why wouldn’t you do that?”

Dreger agreed.

“I’ll tell you what, O. Excellent point and the analogy is sound because I also think that the contract that Tavares got is pretty much what Artemi Panarin is looking for as an unrestricted free agent,” indicated Dreger.

Tavares signed a seven-year, $77 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs in July, leaving the New York Islanders as an unrestricted free agent.

“Where it gets dicey is there will be teams for sure that will pay him that,” added Dreger. “Are those teams going to be teams that Panarin wants to go to. He’s pretty specific in terms of the geography of where he’d like to play.

“So if you’re in the East, you’re looking at the Eastern seaboard. You’re looking at Florida. You’re looking at Boston. You’re looking at the Islanders potentially. The Rangers potentially - everybody wants to play in Manhattan, but where the Rangers are might impact. Philly, to some degree.

“And in the West it gets a little bit more complicated. L.A. might have been a slam-dunk. I don’t know that they are now because of what the L.A. Kings are going through.

“So the market isn’t maybe as vast as what some might think.”

Contract-related info via CapFriendly