NHL Rumor Mill – July 16, 2018
Updates on Artemi Panarin and Jason Zucker in your NHL rumor mill.
PANARIN COULD START SEASON WITH BLUE JACKETS
SPORTSNET: Daniel Goffenberg cites reports indicating Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen will meet today with Artemi Panarin, who is vacationing in France. The 26-year-old left wing becomes an unrestricted free agent next July and recently expressed reluctance in signing a contract extension. Kekalainen is reportedly gauging Panarin’s value in the trade market.
THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline reports Kekalainen doesn’t intend to beg or persuade Panarin to change his mind, but will instead “make clear to Panarin how the next 12 months would be handled in Columbus, that he could be traded at any time if the Blue Jackets get what they consider to be a fair offer.” Portzline adds Kekalainen and Panarin’s agent, Dan Milstein, expect the winger will open the 2018-19 season with the Blue Jackets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kekalainen would prefer Panarin commit to a contract extension, but if that’s not possible, the Blue Jackets GM will trade him instead of losing the talented winger next summer to free agency. I believe Kekalainen doesn’t want this situation to drag out into 2018-19 but he’s not going to make a hasty decision.
Kekalainen reportedly want something that helps his roster immediately and for the future. However, the best offers thus far apparently contain draft picks and prospects. Perhaps the earliest Kekalainen gets a suitable proposal is during training camp or preseason, when interested parties have had an opportunity to evaluate their rosters before the start of the regular season.
ZUCKER HOPES TO REMAIN WITH THE WILD.
TWINCITIES.COM: Dane Mizutani recently reported Jason Zucker hopes to remain with the Minnesota Wild but isn’t sure what his future holds. A restricted free agent, the 26-year-old winger filed for salary arbitration on July 5.
Zucker’s been the subject of frequent trade speculation since Paul Fenton took over as general manager in May. The winger earned $2 million last season and seeks a big raise – perhaps in the $5-million range – after tallying 33 goals and 31 assists last season, but his lack of playoff production could make management reluctant to make a long-term commitment.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild reached the playoffs in each of the last six seasons but advanced beyond the first round just twice. That’s generated considerable grumbling among frustrated Wild followers and led to the recent change in management.
There’s been speculation Fenton could shake up the core of the roster. Zucker and fellow Wild forwards Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter have been mentioned as possible trade candidates, but it’s his free-agent status that’s put him at the forefront of media trade chatter.
If Zucker and the Wild avoid arbitration and agree to a long-term deal it’ll signal that Fenton has faith in the winger as a key part of their core going forward. But if he gets an arbiter-awarded one-year contract, it’ll likely signal the beginning of the end of his tenure in Minnesota.