Package deal? Panarin makes switch to Bobrovsky’s agent

Sean Leahy
NBC Sports

We have 17 days until the 2019 NHL trade deadline and the future of Artemi Panarin in Columbus remains cloudy.

Will the Blue Jackets trade him and/or goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, thereby allowing the team to get assets in return as opposed to watching them walk for nothing when they become unrestricted free agents on July 1?

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Will general manager Jarmo Kekalainen keep one or both and value winning a playoff series for the first time in franchise history over whatever unknown futures he’d receive back in a trade?

Plenty of questions left to be answered, but for now the only news is that Panarin has decided to switch agents, as first reported by NHL Network’s Kevin Weekes, from Dan Milstein of Gold Star Hockey to Paul Theofanous of TMI, LLC. Panarin switched to Milstein in Jan. 2017 citing a need to have representation that can communicate in Russian.

The interesting wrinkle here is that Theofanous also represents Bobrovsky, so those rumors that the two Russians could be a package deal either at the trade deadline (Bob does have a no-mov clause) or come free agency will only intensify. It’s already out there that some believe the Florida Panthers could pursue both as many expect them to be aggressive in the off-season in order to become a playoff team next season. That’s just one option.

Even with the offer of free vodka, earlier this month Milstein, on behalf of Panarin, announced that his client wouldn’t be discussing his future in-season and any negotiations would have to take place in the summer. That put his immediate future in Columbus in doubt and left questions as to what the Blue Jackets will do going forward, especially as they hold the third spot in the Metropolitan Division and are in striking distance of the division lead.

“If we have to make a hard decision, we will,” Kekalainen said the day after the Panarin announcement. “We like Artemi and would like to keep him, and it’s his right to go into free agency. If he chooses to do so, we’ll be knocking on his door July 1, but we’re going to go about our business here and try to win hockey games and make the playoffs and go as deep as possible this spring, too.”

It will be fascinating to see how this all unfolds leading into the trade deadline and then once we get to free agency in July as it’s clear both players will test the market.

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Sean Leahy is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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