The Columbus Blue Jackets shocked the National Hockey League in June 2017 when they traded Brandon Saad and Anton Forsberg to the Chicago Blackhawks for Artemi Panarin and Tyler Motte. Panarin had won the 2016 Calder Trophy and had posted 151 points in his first two seasons in the NHL.
In acquiring Panarin, the Jackets announced that they were going all-in on a two year window with an extremely skilled player in the lineup. It didn’t take Panarin long to dazzle Nationwide Arena.
Columbus went on to post 27 goals, 55 assists, and led Columbus to the playoffs for the second straight year. To date, his 82 points in 81 games was the highest scoring season in franchise history. Against the Washington Capitals, the Jackets jumped out to a shocking 2-0 series lead behind Panarin, including this outstanding overtime winner.
Though the Columbus Blue Jackets lost that series, hopes were high that they could lock him in long term. Unfortunately, Panarin elected not to commit to the franchise, and chose to play out his contract year. That led to a season full of drama, with players being asked consistently about the future of the Russian in the organization. It took until January 2019’s All Star Break for Panarin’s agent to release a statement to quash rumors for the rest of the season.
Statement about Artemi Panarin’s future “We have informed the team that we are willing to discuss Artemi’s future after the season. Our priority now is to focus on the rest of the season, trying to win a Stanley Cup for the CBJ & their fans”. No additional comments will be made..
— Dan Milstein-Hockey (@HockeyAgent1) January 28, 2019
That year at the trade deadline, not only did the team keep Panarin, but they added Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel in an effort to go for the Stanley Cup with the most talented roster the Blue Jackets had ever put on the ice.
Panarin was the player who scored the empty net goal that clinched the first series win in franchise history as the Blue Jackets upset the heavily favored Tampa Bay Lightning.
That summer, despite a push from the Blue Jackets to keep him in town, Panarin left the organization for the New York Rangers.
Panarin looks like $81.5M over 7 to NYR— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 1, 2019
On his return to the Blue Jackets, Panarin was booed by the Nationwide Arena faithful - as is their right, after being spurned by one of their stars leaving in free agency. Former Cannon scribe Ryan Real had an excellent take on the matter:
Panarin doesn’t really deserve it, though. Nobody has ever put together two better seasons in this franchise’s history. His 55 assists in 2017-18 marked the most by a Blue Jacket in 15 years—and then he posted four more assists the following season. He, of course, holds the single-season points record as well. Plus, no Blue Jacket packed as many jaw-dropping plays into his short résumé as Panarin did. Remember when he assisted on all five goals against New Jersey? Or scored in overtime to beat Washington in the playoffs? Or sealed one of the biggest upsets in professional sports history?
Many Blue Jackets fans still hold a grudge against Panarin, making comments about his ill-advised garage statement, booing him whenever the Rangers come to town.
But, regardless of how he left, Panarin made he best decision for his family. He maintains team single season records for assists (59), points (87), assists in a single game (5), points in a single game (5), and the highest plus/minus in franchise history (+37).
Panarin’s legacy in Columbus can never be divorced from his exit. Hopefully one day fans can remember the good times, the talent, and the dazzling plays on a night-in, night-out basis.