The Columbus Blue Jackets have two major questions to answer come the deadline as their two highest marked free agents will be for sale come July 1st, 2019. Which means the Blue Jackets can either find a trading partner now or run the possibility of having Bobrovsky and Panarin walk. If all is right and sane in this world, Jarmo Kekäläinen learned something from the Islanders situation. Which means that the Blue Jackets should probably either try to make a run at signing one of them and trade the other. Therefore this gives us two options.
Option 1: Trade Bobrovsky and go after a cheaper UFA, RFA goaltender in the summer.
This is option one because of what happened the other night in Columbus with Bobrovsky. It seems Bob and management do not get along too well after his stint the other night in Tampa Bay resulting in a suspension from the Blue Jackets for Thursday nights game. We also have no idea what happened but are sure it was a violation of team rules. Plus, the Blue Jackets have Panarin who is 27-years-old, has a .98 points per game and is the Blue Jackets top two forward. Bobrovsky as good as he is, is probably not going to get better at 30-years-old. He has struggled to perform in the playoffs and this year has not looked all that great. He has 18 wins in 31 games started, a 2.87 goals against and .906 save percentage. Also, Bobrovsky probably provides a solid return (not better if you were to trade Panarin) and there are a ton of teams who will take a #1 goaltender. Even if teams are going to be looking at a price tag of 7.5-8.5 million a year. Bobrovsky is already the third highest paid goalie in the NHL so I don’t see how he can go up from here.
Option 2: Trade Panarin, sign Bobrovsky.
This is also a likely possibility. The Russian forward has made some indication that he is not entirely sure if he wants to stay in Columbus. While he has also said that he loves Columbus and playing there. It is a tricky situation with Panarin sending a lot of mixed signals. If the Blue Jackets do end up trading Panarin they will receive a first round pick, a top-level prospect and more. Not to mention Bobrovsky will cost probably 8 million over 4 years, Panarin will cost 9.5 million or more over a long term deal. In hindsight, the Bobrovsky trade would not yield as much in return and looking at this realistically, the Blue Jackets were not MUCH worse when Panarin was not on their roster.
The Blue Jackets received Panarin in 2017-18, the three seasons leading up to Panarin the Blue Jackets had a combined record of 126-99-21. Despite not having a good year in 2015-16 the Blue Jackets went 42-35-5 in 2014-15 and 50-24-8 in 2016-17. Sure Panarin is a very good player and the Blue Jackets would be better off with him but we have learned in this league that a number one goaltender is more important than having multiple super stars on the roster. Look at the Blues, Flames (in recent years), Islanders (in recent years), Carolina, Florida, Dallas (before Bishop), Vancouver, the list goes on. Then take a look at the teams that have won Stanley Cups and why they did. Penguins (Murray and Fleury), Capitals (Holtby), Kings (Quick), Blackhawks (Crawford, Niemi), Red Wings (Hasek) and all the teams like Vegas last season who went on a big run cause of their goaltending or teams like the Flyers who lost in the Stanley Cup final cause lack of goaltending. Goaltending is important in this league, you may not be able to necessarily replace Panarin but other guys will need to step up and it’s a lot harder in this league to replace a goalie.
Option 3: They both walk and Columbus is screwed.
This is option three and probably not realistic. The Blue Jackets ownership is a lot smarter then this but I am just saying it as an option but because it can happen.
All in all, the Blue Jackets need to come to a settlement here with Bobrovsky, patch some things up and get back on each others good side. Panarin provides a greater return then Bobrovsky. But as of now we have some weeks until we find out what happens. During the All-Star break we will know a lot more because the deadline will be nearing and Panarin is suppose to have a conversation with his agent regarding next season and what he wants to do.
My guess: Blue Jackets sign Bobrovsky to deal and trade Panarin at the deadline or he walks over the summer.