File-This Dec. 13, 2018, file photo shows Columbus Blue Jackets’ Artemi Panarin, of Russia, playing against the Los Angeles Kings during an NHL hockey game in Columbus, Ohio. Two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and winger Panarin both will be unrestricted free agents after the season and thus far have refused to sign extensions. At least one of Russian stars could be dealt by the trade deadline Feb. 25, or the Blue Jackets risk getting nothing if they sign with another team after the season.(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete, File)
File-This Dec. 13, 2018, file photo shows Columbus Blue Jackets’ Artemi Panarin, of Russia, playing against the Los Angeles Kings during an NHL hockey game in Columbus, Ohio. Two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and winger Panarin both will be unrestricted free agents after the season and thus far have refused to sign extensions. At least one of Russian stars could be dealt by the trade deadline Feb. 25, or the Blue Jackets risk getting nothing if they sign with another team after the season.(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete, File)|Associated Press
NHL

NHL Wednesday: Bread Man wants out of Columbus

But where to?

Craig Dietel

Craig Dietel

Earlier this week, Blue Jackets forward Artemi Panarin -- through his agent Dan Milstein (@HockeyAgent1) -- publicly announced in a tweet that they were not willing to discuss the winger’s future with the franchise until after the season. This certainly spells trouble for Columbus in the coming months as they don’t want to end up like the Islanders, losing their superstar forward in free agency for absolutely nothing.

The Blue Jackets acquired Panarin from the Blackhawks in a blockbuster trade about a year and a half ago. Columbus gave up F Brandon Saad in exchange for Chicago’s blossoming Panarin. The trade left Blackhawk fans scratching their heads. Why would Chicago trade a winger with two 70-point seasons under his belt for an older winger who caps out at around 53 points? Maybe they were trying to rekindle some of the magic from their cup runs, who knows.

Last year for Columbus, Panarin made a case for himself as one of the top five wingers in the game, succeeding on the ice away from the likes of F Patrick Kane and F Jonathan Toews. Panarin, who eclipsed his previous high point total of 77 as a rookie in 2015-2016 with 82 points last season, is a generational talent and Columbus risks losing him for nothing if they don’t find a buyer.

Teams should be lining up at the door to get a shot at the all-star winger, especially Cup contenders this year such as Boston or Nashville.

Columbus needs to learn from the likes of the Islanders (who lost F John Tavares) or the Devils (who lost F Zach Parise back in his prime). If a player of that caliber expresses interest in hitting the open market, it’s in their best interest to ship him out the door and recoup whatever assets while you can.

Their fans will thank them for it come July 1.

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