The Blue Jackets Felt They Needed "a Better Finisher," So They Traded for Artemi Panarin

By Rob Mixer on August 25, 2017 at 7:08 am
Artemi Panarin
Dennis Wierzbicki - USA TODAY Sports

As the Blue Jackets fought to hang around in their first-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jarmo Kekalainen knew something was missing.

No matter how much or how often puck possession tilted in the Blue Jackets' favor, they weren’t able to put away chances like their opponent could. A missed opportunity at one end felt like a game-changer, if only because the Penguins could strike in an instant at the other. Sure, the Penguins have some of the league’s best finishers up and down their lineup, but the Blue Jackets’ offense sputtered despite an ability to generate scoring chances.

It cost them in pivotal moments.

When the summer shopping season began, Kekalainen sought to add a big-time weapon. He wanted a player that could “score in the big moments” and break a game open with individual skill, and shortly before the NHL Draft in Chicago, he was able to close a deal for Artemi Panarin. Mission accomplished.

The Blue Jackets hope Panarin brings a more dynamic element than the departed Brandon Saad, who had two solid seasons in Columbus but never seemed to settle in here.

Moreover, they’re banking on Panarin helping them become more opportunistic offensively and hang with some of the big dogs in the Metropolitan Division.

“I think that we just feel we needed a better finisher, and Panarin can certainly do that,” John Davidson, Blue Jackets president of hockey operations, told 97.1 The Fan earlier this week. “He’s going to be very exciting to watch; he’s got a great one-time shot, he’s a power play guy, so he should help us in a lot of those ways.

“For the fans, having a chance to watch him play, they’re going to get excited. We’re pretty excited about it.”

The proof is in the pudding with ridiculous goals like this one:

Panarin has been a 70-point player in each of his first two NHL seasons, and while many have wondered how he will fare without Patrick Kane flanking him, it’s not as though he will be without a talented group in Columbus.

Smart money says he will open the season with Alexander Wennberg as his center, and either Cam Atkinson or Nick Foligno on the other wing. Panarin will be the feature player on the Blue Jackets’ top power play unit, as well, a unit that served them well early in the season but faltered in the second half.

The more weapons, the better, Davidson believes, especially in the never-ending arms race that is the Metropolitan Division. Panarin is a significant one.

“We have to make sure we’re a team that’s cognizant of the defensive end, but (bringing in Panarin) should give us some more pop in our offense,” Davidson said. “If we play well, we play proper, we should draw penalties, and when you draw penalties, if you can get your power play going, that’s an advantage.”

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