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Panarin jumps to the top of TSN's Trade Bait board

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Jarmo Kekalainen's phone has been lit up like a Christmas tree since Monday.

The rest of the NHL's general managers have been phoning their cohort in Columbus since Monday's statement by Artemi Panarin's agent, Dan Milstein, who apparently all but assured his client's fate with the Blue Jackets.

"It's disappointing," Kekalainen told reporters Tuesday. "But all we can do is do our best."

The consensus now is that Panarin is more likely to be traded than not.

That makes Panarin the new No. 1 on TSN's Trade Bait board, bumping Matt Duchene and his uncertain future in Ottawa down to No. 2

Rarely does a talent like the Bread Man become available at any point on the hockey calendar. Panarin, 27, is one of the few wingers who drives play on a nightly basis. He is on track for a career-best 33 goals and 96 points, he's been remarkably consistent in four NHL seasons, and he's in the absolute prime of his career.

Unlike fellow pending unrestricted free agent Sergei Bobrovsky, Panarin does not have any non-trade protection and can be moved to any team.

Panarin is the golden TradeCentre chip that both playoff and rebuilding teams covet.

But Kekalainen is facing the ultimate manager's conundrum before the Feb. 25 deadline. He must weigh the value of Panarin's return with losing him for nothing during the summer while trying to stickhand around trading away his best player from the only NHL franchise that has never won a playoff series.

Panarin finished 25 points clear of the Blue Jackets' next closest scorer last season. Clearly, Kekalainen needs some combination of current roster players with prospects and first-round picks.

What Kekalainen can get for Panarin could hinge on Panarin's interest or willingness to negotiate a long-term extension with a potential supporter – and whether Kekalainen will even give him that possibility.

Kekalainen specifically mentioned underwhelming returns offered for pending UFAs Jack Johnson and Matt Calvert last year, which is why the Blue Jackets ended up keeping them to make a run.

The bet is Kekalainen will not have that same flexibility this time around.

"We've said all along we are going to make hard decisions if we have to," Kekalainen told reporters. "But our focus is on getting our team better, making it as competitive as possible, for this spring but also into the future, obviously. If we have to make a hard decision, we will. We like Artemi and would like to keep him. It's his right to go to free agency, and if he chose to do so we'll be knocking on his door July 1. "

Here is TSN Hockey's latest Trade Bait board, which always seeks to blend the prominence of player with his likelihood of being traded:

Embedded Image1. Artemi Panarin, CBJLW27471955$ 6MUFA
Embedded Image2. Matt Duchene, OTTC28412047$ 6MUFA
3. Wayne Simmonds, PHIRW30501523$ 3.98MUFA
4. Micheal Ferland, CARLW26411325$ 1.75MUFA
5. Mats Zuccarello, NYRRW3135824$ 4.5MUFA
6. Dougie Hamilton, CARRD2550819$ 5.75M2
7. Gustav Nyquist, DETRW29511143$ 4.75MUFA
Embedded Image8. Cam Talbot, EDMG31273.27.894$ 4.17MUFA
9. Derick Brassard, PITC3140915$ 5MUFA
10. Sergei Bobrovsky, CBJG30352.97.902$ 7.43MUFA
11. Jakub Silfverberg, ANARW28421219$ 3.75MUFA
12. Jimmy Howard, DETG34342.76.916$ 5.3MUFA
13. Charlie Coyle, MINC2650926$ 3.2M1
Embedded Image14. Alec Martinez, LAKRD3136311$ 4M2
15. Kevin Hayes, NYRC26401033$ 5.18MUFA
16. Brayden Schenn, STLC2745927$ 5.13M1
17. Colton Parayko, STLRD2549813$ 5.5M3
18. Jeff Carter, LAKC33491025$ 5.27M3
19. Cody Ceci, OTTRD2446515$ 4.3MFRG
20. Brett Pesce, CARRD2341311$ 4.03M5
21. Alex Edler, VANLD3236520$ 5MUFA
22. Andre Burakovsky, WSHLW2344612$ 3MFRG
23. Marcus Johansson, NJDLW2837717$ 4.58MUFA
24. Chris Kreider, NYRLW27492237$ 4.63M1
Embedded Image25. Mark Stone, OTTRW26502250$ 7.35MUFA
26. Nick Bjugstad, FLAC / RW2632512$ 4.1M2
27. Justin Faulk, CARRD2650317$ 4.83M1
28. Alex Steen, STLLW3435615$ 5.75M2
29. Jay Bouwmeester, STLLD3545210$ 5.4MUFA
Embedded Image30. Kasperi Kapanen, TORRW22491530$ 863KFRG
31. Andreas Johnsson, TORLW24431022$ 788KFRG
32. Ryan Dzingel, OTTLW26482038$ 1.8MUFA
33. Patrick Maroon, STLLW3041414$ 1.75MUFA
Embedded Image34. Jesse Puljujarvi, EDMRW203949$ 925KFRG
35. Adam McQuaid, NYRRD322503$ 2.75MUFA
36. Niklas Kronwall, DETLD3848214$ 4.75MUFA
37. Bogdan Kiselvich, FLALD283108$ 925KUFA
38. Chris Tanev, VANRD2946210$ 4.45M1
39. Vlad Namestnikov, NYRLW2545416$ 4M1
40. Carl Hagelin, LAKLW302926$ 4MUFA
41. Nathan Beaulieu, BUFLD262637$ 2.4MFRG
42. Dale Weise, PHIRW3042511$ 2.35M1
43. Mikkel Boedker, OTTLW2950527$ 4M1
44. Sam Gagner, VANRW29713$ 3.15M1
45. Jeff Skinner, BUFLW26493145$ 5.73MUFA


No. 5: Maple Leafs' first-round pick – Toronto to Los Angeles on Jan. 28
No. 13: Chris Wideman – Ottawa to Edmonton on Nov. 22
No. 14: Tanner Pearson – Los Angeles to Pittsburgh on Nov. 14
No. 17: Jake Muzzin – Los Angeles to Toronto on Jan. 28
No. 27: Alex Petrovic – Florida to Edmonton on Dec. 29
No. 27: Nino Niederreiter – Minnesota to Carolina on Jan. 17
No. 28: Brandon Manning – Chicago to Edmonton on Dec. 29
No. 35: Michael Del Zotto – Vancouver to Anaheim on Jan. 16
No. 35: Jamie Oleksiak – Pittsburgh to Dallas on Jan. 29
No. 36: Luke Schenn – Anaheim to Vancouver on Jan. 16

Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli

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