In these types of situations, Jarmo Kekalainen has generally excelled.
A few years back, he was locked in a stalemate with Kurt Overhardt, agent for Ryan Johansen when the player needed a new contract after a breakout 33-goal season. Following a dispute that unfortunately went public (and got heated), Kekalainen signed Johansen to a three-year deal worth $4 million annually when the initial ask was nearly double that amount.
He waited patiently, knowing the player's true desire is to play. And Johansen bet on himself and proved himself, eventually getting a long-term deal from the Nashville Predators. In the process, the Blue Jackets picked up arguably the best young defenseman on the planet. Win-win.
This time around, though, it's different. The stakes are higher; the Blue Jackets are on the cusp of being a legitimate contender and need a game-breaker like Artemi Panarin in their lineup. He was a catalyst in their two opening-round wins over the Washington Capitals, including an electrifying overtime winner in Game 1.
You can point to any moment, any instance, that Panarin was responsible for in 2017-18 and feel the pain of potentially losing him.
Kekalainen visited Panarin in France this summer, part of a process that the GM hopes will keep the lines of communication open between the club and Panarin.
Amidst reports that Panarin gave the Blue Jackets a Sept. 13 deadline – as in, today – to resolve his situation, Kekalainen addressed (and squashed) that notion during his media day press conference.
"Artemi Panarin is a great teammate, he's a great pro," Kekalainen said, before adding that the team's relationship with Panarin has always been strong.
"There's no such deadline in my book. That's July 1, 2019."
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