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Artemi Panarin 'dynamic' addition to Blue Jackets

Columbus says acquiring forward from Blackhawks for Brandon Saad brings needed offense

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

CHICAGO -- The Columbus Blue Jackets entered the offseason seeking a dangerous scoring forward. They found their guy in Artemi Panarin, but he didn't come cheap.

The Blue Jackets acquired Panarin on Friday with forward Tyler Motte and a sixth-round pick (No. 170) in the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas from the Chicago Blackhawks for forward Brandon Saad, goalie Anton Forsberg and a fifth-round pick in the 2018 draft.

Panarin, 25, who won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie in the 2015-16 season, scored 151 points (61 goals, 90 assists) in 162 games with the Blackhawks the past two seasons, including 74 points (31 goals, 43 assists) in 82 games this season.

Saad, 24, had 53 points (24 goals, 29 assists) with the Blue Jackets this season after scoring 53 (31 goals, 22 assists) last season. He goes back to Chicago, where he helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup as a rookie in 2013 and again in 2015.

"Brandon Saad is a really good hockey player, a really good person, but to bring in a dynamic guy like [Panarin], I think is very important," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. "He likes scoring goals, and I want to let him go. I don't want to get in his way. I want him to bring that type of play to us. We made a conscious decision to change our style last year to open it up and get some offense. We want to try to bring it to another level so you need to add those type of players. So we're very fortunate to get him."

Video: The crew discusses the Saad-Panarin trade

The Blue Jackets finished sixth in the NHL this season with 247 goals. They were led by forward Cam Atkinson, who scored 35, tied for eighth in the League. However, they felt they were exposed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Columbus lost in five games to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference First Round. It averaged 2.60 goals per game in the series despite averaging 38.8 shots on goal per game.

The Blue Jackets scored on 6.7 percent of their shots in the series. The Penguins, who averaged 34.2 shots per game in the series, scored on 12.3 percent of their shots.

"It was throughout the season we felt that way, but obviously against Pittsburgh we got exposed a little that way when they were shooting at a very high percentage, finishing their chances, and we weren't," Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "Obviously [the] playoffs are the most important part of the season, so when you go through that in the playoffs it kind of convinces you of what you were thinking all along."

Kekalainen said the Blue Jackets will continue to look to add offense this offseason, but he also said they should get a boost from some players they already have, including forwards Josh Anderson and Oliver Bjorkstrand.

Anderson, 23, scored 17 goals, all at even strength, in 79 games this season. Bjorkstrand, 22, scored six goals in 26 games.

"Josh Anderson had 17 goals last year, didn't play any power play, is 6-foot-3 and can fly," Kekalainen said. "Brandon Saad is a strong player, a fast player and he's good 5-on-5. When you compare their production and their play there are similarities there. I think we added that dynamic component that we feel we were a little short of and we'll move forward."

But Friday was about Panarin, about getting a dynamic scorer.

Panarin shined in Chicago playing left wing on a line with center Artem Anisimov and right wing Patrick Kane. Tortorella said Columbus doesn't have anyone who can do what Kane does on the right side, but he plans to start Panarin on a line with center Alexander Wennberg, who had 59 points (13 goals, 46 assists) this season.

"Alexander Wennberg distributes the puck very well so we're going to put them together right away," Tortorella said. "We've got some pretty good people that can play with him."

The immediate next step for Kekalainen and Tortorella was to speak to Panarin to welcome him to Columbus. As of the start of the draft Friday, they hadn't done that because Panarin was in a place that did not have cellphone reception in his native Russia.

"He was going on a fishing trip somewhere deep in Mother Russia," Kekalainen said. "We had his agent at the hotel and we talked to him and I guess he has now cancelled his trip. We'll talk to him as soon as he gets to somewhere where the phone works."

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