Columbus Blue Jackets: Artemi Panarin trade paying huge dividends

Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images
Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images /

Less than a year after the Columbus Blue Jackets acquired Artemi Panarin from the Chicago Blackhawks, the wing has etched his name in franchise history

Who doesn’t love a good blockbuster trade? That’s what the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets pulled off last summer. Chicago traded forwards Artemi Panarin and forward Tyler Motte for forward Brandon Saad, goalie Anton Forsberg along with late round picks being exchanged. It’s easy to see a year later that the Blue Jackets have emerged as the winners.

When the trade broke, most people saw the Saad storyline. Chicago was reluctant to part with him in 2015, so much so that Jonathan Toews reportedly pushed for the front office to get him back. Forsberg has done a decent job in the absence of Corey Crawford. However, Panarin has taken over the narrative.

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Coming into the season, hockey pundits wondered what the Russian wing would be able to accomplish without Patrick Kane. The John Tortorella factor was also an unknown variable for the speedy winger. At times, Torts has struggled to coach similar players (most notably the Sedins). 

The talented Russian has thrived on his own since day one, picking up three points in his Blue Jackets debut and carrying on from there. Panarin has set a career high in different categories every single year and isn’t slowing down.

Tuesday night, he picked up three points against the Detroit Red Wings to bring his total to 80 on the season. At 26, Panarin is now the Blue Jackets’ franchise leader for most points in a season, passing former face-of-the-franchise Rick Nash.

It’s clear that Panarin is the most marketable player on the team. The hype in Ohio will only grow from here. Chicago had to trade away “The Breadman” and his $6 million salary cap hit, as the team is in a retool. But the question for CBJ is, how much is Panarin going to ask for his next deal?

The soon-to-be free agent is going to command an increase on his current salary. General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen and President of Hockey Ops John Davidson surely have a contract ready to roll out come July 1, when he is eligible for an extension. It’s hard to imagine Panarin not signing a long-term deal soon, whether it’s with the Jackets or someone else.

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He currently ranks tied for 10th in average annual value for a left-winger and tied for 42nd for forwards overall. Panarin’s about to move up in the ranks. If Columbus can keep their winning ways and somehow manage to get out of the first round, Panarin might cement his status as the most high-profile pending free agent forward next season.