The Columbus Blue Jackets are playing a dangerous game when it comes to the future of star winger Artemi Panarin.
With unrestricted free agency looming at the end of the season, the 27-year-old has already made it known that he will not discuss a possible contract extension with Columbus until after the 2018-19 season.
Given his rumored desires to play elsewhere, it becomes the Blue Jackets' best course of action to trade him by the league's Feb. 25 deadline.
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The writing has been on the wall for a Panarin exit since the summer as teams like the New York Islanders have constantly been linked him.
On Thursday morning, the rest of the NHL got an idea of what the Blue Jackets will be asking for should a brave executive inquire about a possible trade. A league executive told Fluto Shinzawa of the Athletic, who made the case that Panarin should be on the Boston Bruins radar, that Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen could be looking for a 2019 first-round draft pick and two high-end prospects.
That would mean, he deduced, that Boston would have to send a combination of the likes of Ryan Donato, Urho Vaakkanainen, or Trent Frederic along with an upcoming first-round draft pick.
Like the Bruins, the Islanders are one more premier offensive playmaker from evolving into a serious threat in the Eastern Conference. A sputtering power play unit and the dip in production from Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier is slowly making a talent like Panarin a necessity.
Under those similar parameters for the Bruins, WFAN's Andy Graziano suggested the Islanders would have to send one of their top prospects in Oliver Wahlstrom along with Beauvillier and a first-rounder.
The Islanders have a rich pipeline in terms of prospects and could also offer promising youngsters like Kieffer Bellows, Noah Dobson, Bode Wild or Michael Dal Colle, as well. It would be difficult for Lou Lamoriello to pull off such a move even if the Islanders offer the strongest return because the Blue Jackets are currently chasing the Islanders in the Metropolitan Division. They're just five points back of the first-place Islanders, which will obviously create hesitation to help a division rival pull away in the standings.
The largest issue with Columbus' demands is that they have set such a high asking price for what could be a rental of just two-plus months with Panarin. He has already made it known that he wants to test the waters in free agency, which will likely eliminate any chances of a sign-and-trade to maximize the Blue Jackets' return.
Should he not come down in price, Kekalainen is facing the serious possibility of seeing Panarin remain with the Blue Jackets for the stretch run and lose him for nothing come Jul. 1.
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