Having joined the Blue Jackets this summer, Artemi Panarin has a new city, new teammates, and a new number, and he's enjoying all three.
It was July and Panarin was getting ready to head out on a fishing trip in his home country of Russia when news broke of the trade that sent the dynamic forward to Columbus in exchange for Brandon Saad. It initially caught Panarin off guard.
As Panarin's phone exploded with calls and messages, one of those communications came from fellow Russian and new teammate, Sergei Bobrovsky. The goaltender called Panarin immediately after the trade to welcome him to the Blue Jackets fold and helped put him at ease.
So now Panarin knew at least one of his new teammates. The two were ready to share the ice together, but there was one thing they couldn't share, and that was a jersey number. Panarin had worn jersey number 72 during his two seasons in Chicago, including his rookie season when he won the Calder Trophy.
Video: Newest player to the Blue Jackets, Artemi Panarin
How would the two decide who would keep their number and who would be tasked with choosing a new one?
"I brought boxing gloves and it will be decided later," Panarin joked as he spoke through an interpreter.
But while the young forward enjoys thai boxing as one of his off-season activities he won't be putting it to use any time soon. The 25-year-old is keenly aware of Bobrovsky's seniority and career accomplishments.
"There were no options (to keep 72)," Panarin said. "Bobrovsky has two Vezina trophies. (I had) no chance."
So Panarin put a new spin on the number that he had worn for his entire NHL career. Seven plus two equals nine. Thus, a new number was assigned.
Since the trade was completed, Panarin quickly got over his initial surprise. "It's a great opportunity to become a better player," he said. And he's since met ten more of his Jackets teammates and has spoken briefly with head coach John Tortorella via phone.
"We haven't agreed to anything yet," Panarin said with his signature smile.
Tortorella has said that he plans to pair Panarin with center Alexander Wennberg and expects the newest Jacket to be a big part of the power play. But regardless of who Panarin lines up with, he adds a powerful offensive weapon to the forward corps and increases the scoring depth of the team overall.
And for all the change the last few months have brought, there's one thing Panarin brings with him, his nickname. He earned the moniker "Bread Man" for how similar his name is to the popular chain of Panera bakery-cafés. But the reference holds a special meaning for the player as well.
"I'm used to the name Bread Man," Panarin said. "In Russia, there is a saying, 'bread is the head to everything.' My grandpa is very happy that I have a nickname."