The 1OB Roundtable: Keep Him Or Trade Him? The Blue Jackets' Biggest Decision Involves Their Biggest Star

By 1OB Staff on February 19, 2019 at 8:30 am
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Artemi Panarin takes a break during warm-ups at Nationwide Arena.
Aaron Doster – USA TODAY Sports

Less than a week to go.

It's a newsy time of year in the NHL and eyes are on central Ohio, where the Columbus Blue Jackets have a pair of stars who may or may not be available for trade. In this edition of the 1OB Roundtable, a few of our staffers – Dan Dukart, Kyle Morrison, Rob Mixer, and the new guy Jacob Nitzberg – are debating and discussing the future of Artemi Panarin.

As of today, what do you THINK the Blue Jackets will do with Artemi Panarin – and why?

Dukart: I still believe they ought to trade him, but as the clock ticks down, I think it’s more likely that he stays in town through the trade deadline. The franchise would benefit in a big way from winning a playoff series for the first time in its history, and it’s impossible to argue that they’re better off without him. Also, management has been adamant that they’re not going to trade Panarin unless the price threshold is met. With so many moving pieces (I.e, trading for help after trading Panarin), time is against them.

Morrison: I’m at a weird point where I’d be surprised with either outcome – but I think they’ll keep him. He’s a game-breaking talent and the rest of the team has come along lately. Before this latest hot stretch for the Blue Jackets, I was vehemently opposed to labeling this as “the best chance” for a Stanley Cup run. I still think that it’s wise to extend the window, but with Panarin (and Bobrovsky, and others) playing as well as they are, this team could make some noise if they play like this. That said, getting hot for five or six games is no reason to mortgage the future with this bright core.

Mixer: It’s hard for me to picture a scenario where the stars align – meaning, the Blue Jackets are able to score a package that moves them to trade Panarin, and also swing a subsequent deal to “replace” him – before the Feb. 25 deadline. There are just so many moving parts and so many contenders/buyers that this market probably won’t shake all the way out until the final hour, and in my mind, that’s too long for Jarmo Kekalainen to wait. Best case scenario is Panarin remains in Columbus and the Blue Jackets add a piece or two to bolster their “today” team, and see what happens in the playoffs.

Nitzberg: I think they will keep Panarin through the end of the season. It’s clear how much he means to this team – and he has combined nicely with Atkinson and Dubois to form a formidable first line. For a team in the midst of a hotly-contested Metro Division and Eastern Conference race, it’d be tough to break that chemistry up at this point in the year. If Panarin is kept through the deadline, it shows that the front office is committed to winning the Stanley Cup this year. It’s my opinion that the Cup is not attainable for the Jackets with their current roster – but hey, I’d love to be proven wrong. There’s promise (see: Pierre-Luc Dubois), but I don’t think the current edition of the Blue Jackets is there yet.

As of today, what do you WANT the Blue Jackets to do with Artemi Panarin – and why?

DD: I want them to trade Panarin, with the caveat that the price has to be right. Will they get “fair value” for him? Gosh, almost certainly not. But for a team that has preached asset management and building steadily through drafting and development, losing Panarin (and Bobrovsky) for no return would be devastating. Continuing to build a better roster isn’t the sexy, bold move, and it won’t help season ticket sales for 2019-20, but it’s more than likely the sensible choice.

KM: This team has kicked ass lately and Panarin’s been leading the charge, but I want them to trade him and Bobrovsky for a mix of futures and roster players if possible. He’s the best player on the market and the Western Conference seems to be wide open – especially for that last wild card slot – so there should be no shortage of suitors. If the Blue Jackets can get a quality young winger to replace Panarin (say a Kevin Fiala from Nashville or a Tyler Toffoli from Los Angeles) plus one or two nice future assets (a late first-rounder and/or quality prospect), they should pull the trigger and extend the cup window.  

RM: I want the Blue Jackets to keep him (ducks). Now, I’ll admit that I have slightly different perspective having spent a number of years in the organization, but I know how much they want to win (and how much money is involved in making the playoffs). The Blue Jackets are well-positioned even if they lose Panarin and they probably will at some point, but I think the opportunity to finally win a playoff round and roll the dice is too tantalizing to pass up, so I’d keep him around and maximize the time I have with my superstar. You also have some solace in the fact that Panarin does enjoy being here, so he’s not going to sabotage the rest of the season if he sticks around – his focus on the business side seems to be on July 1, which wouldn’t impact the final two-plus months of the season here.

JN: It’s clear that Panarin is the best player on the Blue Jackets. However, even if he plays his best hockey over this stretch run and into the playoffs, I don’t see a path to the Stanley Cup this year. Teams like the Lightning (who have owned the Blue Jackets), Bruins, Maple Leafs, and of course Metro rivals such as the Islanders, Capitals, and Penguins all present big roadblocks that I don’t see the Blue Jackets being able to bypass. It would be best to trade Panarin – and the market is rabid for him. The Blue Jackets would be able to net a generous return (first-round pick/prospect, NHL-proven winger), even for his rental contract. Making a move proactively would set the Blue Jackets up nicely for the future, while also eliminating the risky bet of keeping Panarin through the end of the season.

Agree or disagree with the Blue Jackets’ reported reluctance to permit negotiating with Panarin and his agent, Paul Theofanous?

DD: I understand why this decision was made. Allowing outside negotiations would muddy the waters, and it gives the Blue Jackets at least some semblance of control over the situation. I will say this though: it’s possible that the club is leaving a higher return on the table by not permitting negotiations. But at the end of the day, management made the choice to keep sharks away from bloody water. I get that.

KM: I disagree in one instance, and that’s negotiating with the Florida Panthers. Given the insider speculation that he and Bobrovsky could be a package deal, and that Florida’s ready to throw their rent money at Bobrovsky, if Panarin could be convinced to choose Sunrise as his long-term destination, the Blue Jackets could get better pieces than they likely could dealing both players separately. Blue Jackets fans should be salivating over the chance to add Jonathan Huberdeau and a couple more quality pieces in that potential deal. If we’re talking about any of the other 29 potential landing spots, though, I completely agree that a negotiation only serves to make the whole situation more volatile – a huge mistake given that the deadline is a mere week away.

RM: I don’t mind it. Throw your cards on the table for the rest of the GMs blowing your phone up: if you want the player before Feb. 25, he’s a rental. Plain and simple. No one has a leg up, you’re all starting from the same spot. Put your best foot forward to land this top-10 forward for the rest of the season and the highest bidder wins. If the highest bid stinks, you keep him. In a way, Kekalainen puts the heat on his colleagues to knock his socks off if they want to pry him out of Columbus a few months early.

JN: I agree with the Blue Jackets’ choice of reluctancy here. Contract negotiations are overwhelming to go through, and in the final stages of an up-and-down regular season, the last thing the Blue Jackets/Panarin need are more distractions. The current negotiations should be between Panarin and the club, or the club and other teams. Anything else would be an unwelcome disruption. I have faith in the Blue Jackets’ front office, if it comes down to it, to make the right deal if he is traded. I’m in approval of them blocking other teams’ attempts to negotiate.

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