Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen is planning a visit to Europe to meet with Artemi Panarin.
In an interview with 97.1's Carpenter & Rothman, Kekalainen outlined that sometime in July, he would be making the trip across the pond. He didn't specify if others from within the organization would be joining him.
"Our main focus is trying to keep him here long term, and I'm going to meet with him this summer and we'll talk about things," Kekalainen said. "This cannot become a distraction. We have to work as a team. It's important for the Blue Jackets, important for Artemi to have focus on playing and being at his best every night, and that's what we're going to focus on."
Kekalainen's response suggests that the meeting wouldn't be as much a recruiting pitch – of course Panarin knows he's incredibly sought after by Columbus – as it would be a candid discussion with the intent of (attempting to) eliminate the distractions for the upcoming season.
That also implied that, barring the unforeseen, Panarin would at least start the year in Columbus.
"We expect him to be back here and ready to go for training camp and start the season with the Blue Jackets, and be even better than he was last year," Kekalainen said.
"I'm an optimistic guy, so we'll keep working at it, and hopefully we'll get it (Panarin's decision) changed."