Nine more days until number nine shuts it all down.
Artemi Panarin's Sept. 13 contract negotiation deadline is coming up quick, but as far as we know, Panarin is still refusing to negotiate an extension in Columbus. The chances a deal gets worked out by then are somewhere between zero and, uh, zero – as the deadline itself has been a red herring this whole time.
The Blue Jackets have had veteran players demand out before, but this one just feels different. First, because he's not exactly 'demanding' anything (more 'politely holding the team hostage') and second, this isn't how negotiations typically go in the Jarmo Kekalainen era.
Josh Anderson's contentious holdout last offseason ended with the Blue Jackets calling his bluff, waiting him out and seeing him sign an extremely team-friendly deal. A few years prior, we saw a standoff between management and then-Blue Jacket Ryan Johansen, with a similar end result. The Johansen negotiations got so heated that John Davidson called Johansen and his agent "extortionists" during a conversation with reporters. Anderson's contract was signed after the front office showed unwavering patience, while Johansen's came after the team told their side with brutal honesty, painting Johansen's agent as the bad guy.
This time, though, the Blue Jackets have the kid gloves on.
Panarin and his agent have taken both of those tactics out of the Blue Jackets' negotiating toolbox this go-round, and by design. RFA versus UFA status aside, Panarin and agent Dan Milstein have gone out of their way to paint Panarin as a good guy who did the team a favor by telling the Blue Jackets that he wants out. The negotiation deadline ensured that Jarmo can't wait him out. This is by design.
It’s an undeniably shitty situation, and the Blue Jackets are clearly trying to make the best of it – but it’s a situation that Panarin himself created and seems to be reveling in while the Blue Jackets just want to save face.
“He’s a great player, and we also love him as a player and a teammate,” said Kekalainen at the NHL Draft. "I have nothing but good things to say about Artemi.”
Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the last part of that quote.
For one, the Panarin/Milstein narrative falls doesn't quite add up. The deadline is/was rationalized as Panarin not wanting to negotiate in-season, citing his disdain for the 'business side' of hockey. Rather than minimizing the impact of the 'business side,' though, Panarin seems to be throwing himself into it, making himself subject to a likely trade and signaling to the league that he'd rather have 31 offers to pick from than one. Then, the notion that they're doing the team a favor by making their intentions clear actually damages the team's standing in trade negotiations, as it amplifies the team's lack of leverage and encourages low-ball offers.
It’s setting an impossible bar for the Blue Jackets to clear, while aiming for the public perception that his inevitable departure will be a mutual failing rather than Panarin spitting on a city that embraced him.
It doesn’t help Panarin’s case that he’s been stoking the flames on social media.
If you believe the internet rumors, Panarin’s list (which he’s said doesn’t exist) (that probably doesn’t exist) (but maybe does exist) (and has been publicly discussed regardless), of desired landing spots includes Tampa Bay. Training with Nikita Kucherov is one thing, but retweeting something about his situation with the Blue Jackets – a situation that he created! – isn’t a great look.
Then, there was an Instagram post saying that he’s training for the upcoming season, but using #NHL instead of tagging his current team.
Are these innocent gaffes? Possibly. More likely, though, is that he has no desire to be a Blue Jacket for much longer.
Rather than acting like he’s doing the Blue Jackets some kind of favor by letting them know he wants to be traded, let’s call it like it is: he’s Jeff Carter with candor. The best the Blue Jackets can hope for now is a miracle by Kekalainen. It’s an impossible situation, though, because that miracle likely still takes the form of a step back for the Blue Jackets.
Panarin will soon earn the right to play wherever he wants. What he won't earn, though, is the right to a clean break with a community that embraced him as a franchise player mere months ago.
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