Why the Blue Jackets should keep transition king Artemi Panarin

Sportsnet

As we near the NHL’s trade deadline day on Feb. 25, new rumours appear almost daily about who could be available and which teams are interested. However, the biggest add that any team could conceivably make as a rental has been out there as a name since before the season even began: Artemi Panarin.

Panarin’s career has been nothing short of brilliance, spending two seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks on a line with Patrick Kane that had some wondering if he was a product of the superstar American, followed by the last season and a half in Columbus, where he has been even more impressive without an elite-level linemate.

Through 291 career games in the regular season, Panarin has accumulated 290 points, placing him seventh in the NHL over that time behind Kane, Nikita Kucherov, Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Blake Wheeler, and Johnny Gaudreau. When you cut things down to even-strength points only, Panarin is third behind McDavid and Kane with 137. That’s some elite company, with none of those other names even close to becoming available. But Panarin is an unrestricted free agent after this season, and has stated he wants to play near the ocean.

As the season has gone on it seemed at points that Panarin was willing to think about staying in Columbus, but a statement from his agent recently threw water on that idea, saying Panarin wouldn’t discuss anything until after the season.

That’s an uncomfortable situation for the Blue Jackets to deal with. Sergei Bobrovsky is in a similar situation, though it’s looking even less likely that he’ll be back, so there’s a somewhat decent chance that Panarin could be had for a contending team.

Why a team should want Panarin

Beyond the offensive components of his game, which are obvious, Panarin is one of the league’s premier transition players, and his defensive game isn’t something to be ignored either.

Transition is where I would focus most though, because while I had him ranked as the third-best left wing in the game coming into the season behind Brad Marchand and Taylor Hall, when it comes to moving the puck from the defensive zone to the offensive zone, there’s no one better at his position.

#hockey, #professional

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