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With Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky becoming free agents next summer there are a lot of questions to answer in Columbus.
By Chris Yackel
The Columbus Blue Jackets when healthy and when most of their top players are productive have very good playoff team. They still however have failed to advance past the first round in their franchise’s history. They even blew a 2-0 series lead to the eventual cup champs in the Capitals, in a series where they had complete control. Now, coming into this season there are a lot of questions surrounding some of their best players and if they will be in Columbus long term.
Both Artemi Panarin the teams leading scorer from last season and franchise goalie Sergei Bobrovsky are unrestricted free agents heading into next season. Panarin has already stated he will not talk a contract extension during the season, as he is 99.9 percent going to leave Columbus after the season. Bobrovsky is a different story.
The two time Vezina Trophy winner turned 30 this year and Columbus may not want to give him the Carey Price type contract that he will be sure to ask for. Bobrovsky is very injury prone so it makes sense that they don’t want to dish out big dough and an 8-year deal for a guy who just turned 30. If you ask the Montreal Canadiens to re-do the Carey Price extension they probably would want to. Columbus does not want to find themselves in that position.
So, what would be the best course of action for the Jackets? They have a team that can contend for a playoff spot. It seems Panarin is just getting better with each passing year. Bobrovsky seems to be healthy and ready for a Vezina type season. Do you trade these players at the deadline? Even if you’re in a playoff spot? It’s a tough question for the Blue Jackets organization to make.
Ultimately, I believe they should trade both of them regardless. Bobrovsky always seems to get injured and long term deal might not be beneficial to both sides. Look at the Canadiens and Carey Price. Price certainly would not sign that deal if he knew in a year’s time that the Montreal would be rebuilding. Montreal would also probably trade price if they could go back in time. Trading Panarin is a no brainer. He doesn’t want to re-sign and will demand high value such as a first round pick or maybe two and a top prospect.
It will be an even tougher decision for Columbus, because even without Panarin and Bobrovsky the Blue Jackets have some good players still. Their first defense pair of Zack Werenski and Seth Jones is young electric and has the potential to be elite. Alex Wennberg, Cam Atkinson, Josh Anderson and Boone Jenner are all really good players. Finally, Columbus hit a home run with their 2016 first round pick in Pierre Luc-Dubois. Dubois looks like he will be the Jackets franchise first line center for a long time.
In saying all of that the return on both players could net multiple first round picks and set the franchise up for now and the future. I say it is a no brainer to trade Panarin and if you can get Bobrovsky for a reasonable deal that work for your cap situation then do it. Otherwise I’d trade Bobrovsky too. It should be an interesting year in Columbus. We’ll see where this train goes.
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