We all know that the biggest hole the Colorado Avalanche need to fill this offseason is secondary scoring. With Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, the Avalanche have one of the best lines in the NHL, unfortunately, they rely on them entirely too much.
There is a way that Joe Sakic can fill that secondary scoring void in a big way. That’s by making a strong pitch for Columbus Blue Jackets superstar Artemi Panarin. You wouldn’t think team would want to sell such a high-end player, but word around the NHL over the past few weeks is that the 26-year old doesn't want to talk contract extension with the Jackets, making a trade a lot more probable.
Panarin currently makes $6 million on the cap, but he is an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season - the only reason Columbus would consider moving him. Any trade would have to come along with a contract extension. This gives the player a lot of power. If he gives an indication that he won’t sign a long-term extension, no team is going to pay the price necessary to land his services.
Unfortunately, Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada is reporting that Panarin would prefer to land in either Los Angeles, Florida or New York.
That said, give Joe half an hour and I’m sure he could explain to the player why Colorado would be an incredible fit.
How good is Panarin?
He’s really stinkin’ good.
Since coming over from the KHL in the summer of 2015, Panarin’s 233 points put him eighth in NHL scoring. Only Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Connor McDavid, Nikita Kucherov, Blake Wheeler and Jamie Benn have more points since the 2015-16 season.
He is an elite point producer and one of the better shot generators in the league. Add to that the fact that he’s consistently one of his team’s best defensive wingers and you’ve got a player that is a legitimate superstar.
Over the past three seasons, Artemi Panarin is one of the best wingers in the league in every aspect of the game, goal scoring, play driving, defensive reliability, and on. To put the above graph into context for you, Mikko Rantanen is Colorado’s best winger. He had a breakout season last year and was one of the better right-wingers in the NHL; this is how his year from last season compares to Panarin.
Artemi Panarin would be the ideal addition to this Avalanche lineup. For a team that has one elite line and then a dearth of scoring, adding an elite offense producer to the top-6 would be huge. Teams would no longer be able to load up defensively on the MacKinnon line. A second line that can be just as dangerous on every shift would add a huge boost to the production of the team.
There is also the added bonus that Panarin is a right-handed shot - something the Avs would love to add to the lineup. Last year’s team only had two right-shooting forwards in the lineup on a regular basis - Nathan MacKinnon and J.T. Compher - and they both played center most of the time. Adding a righty on the wing would be welcomed whole heatedly by coach Bednar.
He’ll be 27 at the start of next season, so Panarin is at the upper threshold of the age range for the core of this Avs team. That said, he’s definitely at the part of his career to make a major impact through this team’s contention window.
He’s going to be really expensive.
Despite only having him under contract for one more season, the Blue Jackets aren’t going to give Panarin away for pennies on the dollar. Any package is almost certainly going to start with Tyson Jost and go from there. Jost, maybe next year’s first round pick and a higher-end prospect that the Blue Jackets are a big fan of.
It’s a huge cost, but one you’d think Joe Sakic would be willing to pay IF Panarin comes along with a contract extension.
By all indications Panarin has a list of only a few cities in which he’d be willing to sign a long-term contract. That said, we should never rule out Joe Sakic’s charm and power of persuasion.
Colorado is a good young team and they have the cap flexibility to offer Panarin an extension as high, or higher than almost anyone else. We’d have to assume that Panarin is going to cost $10m-plus a season with a lot of term. That’s fine. He’s that good.
This is a young team that has a very obvious path towards Stanley Cup contention over the next 5 years. The Avs came into the offseason with some major holes. They filled one with the Grubauer trade and Panarin would fill another.
If a contract extension could be worked out, Artemi Panarin is worth the cost - both in terms of dollars and trade capital. He is one of the best 3 to 5 wingers in the entire NHL and would be at the top of any team’s fantasy wish-list. Joe doesn’t make a ton of trades, but when he does, they’re usually pretty big.
Stealing Artemi Panarin from the bigger markets seems like a move that has Joe Sakic written all over it.