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Panarin, Bobrovsky discuss contract situations

Panarin still 'unsure' about long-term future; Bobrovsky more certain but not forthcoming.

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

One is unsure about his Blue Jackets future beyond this season, while the other isn't revealing his plan publicly.

Either way, the Jackets' training camp began Thursday without much further clarity provided by Artemi Panarin or goalie Sergei Bobrovsky - who could each become unrestricted free agents July 1, 2019.

Panarin, speaking via translator Vlad Spektor of Gold Star Sports Management - the agency that represents him - started out with a statement about his reluctance to negotiate a long-term contract.

"This summer, I said I'll take some time to think about the future and really, nothing's changed," he said in his statement. "I want to say, I've really enjoyed every day here. It's been great here. These thoughts are really nothing that has to do with the organization specifically.

"I was welcomed here with open arms by pretty much everyone in the organization, the fans and, you know, the fans love me and I love the fans. I want people to understand that it's not often that a player really has the opportunity to kind of decide the future, so I'm going to take the time to decide."

Bobrovsky, who's been with the Blue Jackets since being acquired in a 2012 trade with the Philadelphia Flyers, spoke in more certain terms. He just didn't reveal any specifics.

Asked if he's been actively involved in contract-extension talks, along with his agent, the two-time winner of the Vezina Trophy said: "[I'm] involved there, for sure."

Asked how things currently stand, Bobrovsky said he's relayed his plans to Blue Jackets management, both this season and the future.

"Well, I heard some interviews during the summer and stuff like that, so after the last season, I told the situation to the management of the Blue Jackets, so they know everything," he said. "They know my plans for this season, they know my plans for the future, so they know everything."

Video: Sergei Bobrovsky meets with the media

Bobrovsky was asked what his plans entailed but declined to make them public.

"They know exactly what we're going to do," he said of the team's hockey-operations leaders. "You have to ask them. They know my plans."

General manager Jarmo Kekalainen said during the team's media day luncheon Tuesday that he remains open to negotiating with each player. He reiterated those sentiments Wednesday.

"Nothing has changed our minds," Kekalainen told BlueJackets.com. "We love both players. We'll keep working and are hopeful we can get something done to keep them as Blue Jackets."

Bobrovsky was asked directly if this would be his final season with Columbus.

"We'll see," he said.

Panarin, in keeping with his personality, was more lighthearted in his discourse with reporters. He even spoke in English a few times, including once in response to a question about whether he preferred living in a bigger city or perhaps by an ocean.

"No," he said, in his own words. "No speak English … no speak Russian, too, now. Nothing."

Asked what was most important to him in contract talks, the term "money" within the question provided another opening for a joke.

"It's not about, really, money," Panarin said. "That information is not for the club, though. Team's not supposed to know."

Video: Panarin addresses the media on the first day of Camp

His extended answer was about something much less tangible.

"[Money's] not the first priority, though," Panarin said. "I just want to be happy every day. I want everyone in my life to be healthy, happy and the same goes for me. I want to be happy and live a happy life. That's pretty much the first priority in my life, is just being happy and being around the people I love."

That includes his current teammates, who've already begun kidding around with him.

"They're just making jokes," he said. "I can't wait to play. And just being back here, seeing all the players, it's so exciting seeing that the players are ready to go. I'm just so excited and I hope the fans are just as excited too. I know pretty much the whole team wants me here. They love me. I love them. It's as simple as that."

Panarin and Bobrovsky don't want their situations to become a distraction, which they made clear. Columbus is heading into the new season with renewed hope for another appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and what they hope is a longer postseason run. Each is ready to help the cause, which means keeping contract talk to a minimum from here on out.

"We talked all summer," said Panarin, who set a personal deadline of Thursday for contract discussions. "Everyone has conversations, but today's the 13th and today's the deadline and really, today's just the day where it's all hockey now."

Bobrovsky had similar sentiments.

"I prepare myself [to] play hockey, to help the team win, this team - and [I just] work hard, prepare and I want to win," he said. "I don't want to play any games, any contract things. I'm just going to play hockey and focus on hockey."

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