It just never seemed likely that Jarmo Kekalainen would trade Artemi Panarin.
And once we saw the prices being paid for forwards on the rental market, the Blue Jackets were wiser to hang on to Panarin and utilize him as a "self rental" for the stretch run. Kevin Hayes went for a bottom-six forward and a first-round pick. Mark Stone, eight-year extension and all, was dealt for a top prospect, a contract dump, and a second-round pick.
Considering that Kekalainen said any Panarin trade would have to improve the Blue Jackets' roster both today and tomorrow, it's not surprising that their star forward remains in Columbus.
"There was no offer that would have made sense of us now and into the future, and it was an easy decision," Kekalainen said at his post-trade deadline press conference on Monday afternoon.
Kekalainen's decision has almost created a split of opinion: many believe he was right to capitalize on his team's opportunity with two stars (Panarin and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky), regardless of what the future may hold. They're in a good spot to make something happen and why not take advantage? Conversely, some believe Kekalainen should have traded Panarin to the highest bidder and recoup assets before his imminent departure this summer.
The future remains bright, Kekalainen said, while his hope remains to re-sign his free agents despite what public perception says may happen. And if they don't sign, the Blue Jackets' young and promising core remains in place.
"We have lots of good players," Kekalainen said. "We're going to have a good team next year – no matter what happens with the UFAs."
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