The season of trade rumors in the hockey world is upon us, that time of year right before the draft and free agency where the slightest whisper fuels widespread rumors across the hockey world. Look no further than the player switcheroo that ensued on Tuesday that arguably kicked off the player movement season of 2018. Mike Hoffman woke up on Tuesday morning as a member of the Ottawa Senators, ate lunch as a San Jose Shark, and went to bed as a Florida Panther, and that wasn’t the biggest news of the day. That privilege falls to the Columbus Blue Jackets and their star forward Artemi Panarin, with the news that extension talks have been halted. This unfortunate news for the Jackets is causing the club to explore the market for potential trades. Welcome to the offseason, everyone.
With the news of the potential shopping for Panarin — one of the elite young players in the game right now — it’s fair to say that hockey fans across the NHL let themselves contemplate what Panarin could do for their team. Followers of the Dallas Stars are no different, and who could blame them. The Stars have an obvious need for a top six winger who can chip in consistently behind the top line, and be an ideal pair with Jason Spezza and Mattias Janmark. Panarin with his almost point per game average in three NHL seasons, could easily fit the bill. Just ask Stars pre and postgame host Bob Sturm.
All of this is to say that the Blue Jackets can still get a deal done with their left winger, which would make this article and the rumors a moot point. However, if Panarin is traded, the club who acquires him is in for a real treat. Panarin is simply a game breaker in all of the offensive aspects of the game. The talented Russian’s game is incredibly smooth, as he is able to make plays off the rush and use his creativity to create space for himself and his teammates.
He also possesses speed that backs off defenders as he moves through the neutral zone and into the attack zone, which allows him to either shoot, pass, or make a power move to the net. These aspects of his game all culminate into his ability to score at a 30 goal clip, record over 40 assists, and regularly put up over 70 points a season. The man has always been healthy as well, not having played less than 80 games a season in his career.
Case closed, right? It’s time for GM Jim Nill to pull the trigger and acquire Panarin, solidifying the Dallas Stars second line. Right?
Not so fast.
Make no mistake, the addition of Panarin would be a huge upgrade to the top of six of the Stars. Assuming that Jason Spezza returns to produce 50 points and Mattias Janmark continues his maturation, Panarin could be an ideal fit on that line going forward. A top six that includes Panarin, Spezza, and Janmark, plus the obvious line of Seguin, Benn, and Radulov would pit the Stars favorably against any team in the league. The addition could also help new coach Jim Montgomery implement his tempo based system, by adding another quick and skilled forward to his forward group. On paper, the move works the Stars, but there is one catch. What will the Jackets demand for their star winger?
At the end of the day, the cost of Panarin could crush the dreams of Stars fans, both with his salary and his trade value. Panarin still has one year remaining on his current deal that he signed with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2016. The deal which carried him through last season and the upcoming 2018-2019 season has an annual cap hit of $6 million a year, which is expensive for one year of potential playmaking.
It also creates another problem. The Panarin deal would come off the books at the exact time Tyler Seguin would, if the Stars do not re-sign #91 this summer. This all meaning that the team could be looking at two very expensive extensions in the same window, which is not ideal. If the contract and future extension aren’t enough to deter the Stars, the trade value should.
The Stars currently hold the 13th pick in the NHL draft, and the Blue Jackets hold the 18th. The pick could be just the start of the trade package required to acquire Panarin. With the NHL draft in Dallas and the need for quality prospects in the system, are the Stars really willing to trade their pick for possibly a one year rental? I would hope not.
The Blue Jackets on the other hand would need to move up to either pick just outside the top ten, or possibly flip the pick for a player in a separate deal. The Blue Jackets would also require a prospect and and NHL-ready player in the deal, such as Julius Honka, which, again, is a price the Stars should see as too steep for a possible rental. In both case studies on Panarin, the numbers and common sense just do not add up for the Stars, despite his good-looking hockey stats.
With the draft only a handful of days away and free agency in two weeks (July 1), the endless cycle of rumors and player movement is in full swing. With Jim Nill’s reputation as a savvy dealmaker during this time of year, the Stars could be linked to a number of deals and players. However, when it comes to the Blue Jackets and Panarin, the Stars would be wise to look at their future. The 13th pick in this draft could yield a solid player down the line, and the loss of an existing NHLer and prospect in return for Panarin would hurt the Stars now and in the future. When it comes to Panarin, the Stars should stay their hand and look at a more practical addition.