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Panarin, Bobrovsky meet with Panthers: report

Blue Jackets forward, goalie each can become free agent July 1 @NHLdotcom

Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky met with the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, general manager Dale Tallon told The Athletic.

Panarin, a 27-year-old forward, and Bobrovsky, a 30-year-old goalie, teammates on the Columbus Blue Jackets this season, each can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. Players have been able to meet with other teams since Sunday.

"They have every right to do it. They have 31 options. If I was a free agent, I would utilize everything, and you only get that opportunity once in your life," Tallon told the website Thursday. "And I can't blame them. I mean, the fact they gave us the opportunity to speak with them speaks volumes as well. There are a lot of teams not being spoken with."


[RELATED: Panarin, Bobrovsky futures among top questions heading into free agency]


Panarin also met with the New York Rangers, and the New York Islanders are interested, The Fourth Period reported.

"We told them our plan. We told them what our goals were and how we were going to do it," Tallon said. "I think they appreciated it. Now it's just a matter of what the other teams B.S. them about. We are selling a great future, a great, young talented team."

Video: Freidman gives updates on Panarin, Pavelski

Tallon said he and coach Joel Quenneville met with Panarin and Bobrovsky at a hotel on Fort Lauderdale beach (Quenneville coached Panarin with the Chicago Blackhawks from 2015-17).

Florida has made the Stanley Cup Playoffs once in the past seven seasons (2015-16) and twice in the past 18 seasons (2011-12). The Panthers finished 12 points behind the Blue Jackets for the second wild card from the Eastern Conference.

"We are confident we're going to make our team better," Tallon said. "We're trying to hit some home runs here. But if we have to hit three singles to score a run, we will think about that as well. We're going to do everything we can to possibly get better and to get [Quenneville] the players we need to get us to the promised land."

Columbus forward Matt Duchene, another pending free agent, has met with the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators, TSN reported.

"We've said all along that we assumed the risk and if they're gone by July 1, we're going to have lots of [NHL salary cap] space and lots of different other opportunities to move forward, and life goes on," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said Sunday. "That was part of the risk we were willing to take.

"We've thought this could happen, so if it happens, we're not going to be shocked. We thought at the [NHL Trade Deadline] that this could be the case, and if it is the case, we'll just move forward and start building other ways to fill those holes."

Panarin led the Blue Jackets with an NHL career-high 87 points (28 goals, 59 assists) in 79 regular-season games this season and had 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 10 playoff games. Columbus swept the Presidents' Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference First Round to win a playoff series for the first time before losing to the Boston Bruins in six games in the second round.

Panarin has been eligible to sign a contract with the Blue Jackets since July 1, 2018, but did not have discussions during the season after the sides failed to reach an agreement prior to training camp in September.

Undrafted, Panarin signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Blackhawks on April 29, 2015, and won the Calder Trophy, voted as NHL rookie of the year, that season after he had 77 points (30 goals, 47 assists) in 80 games. He has 320 points (116 goals, 204 assists) in 322 NHL games and 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in 27 playoff games.

Bobrovsky was 37-24-1 with a 2.58 goals-against average, .913 save percentage and an NHL-leading nine shutouts in 62 games (61 starts) this season. He is the Blue Jackets leader in wins (213) and shutouts (33) and has won the Vezina Trophy, voted as the best goalie in the NHL, twice in his seven seasons with Columbus (2012-13, 2016-17).

Undrafted, Bobrovsky signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Philadelphia Flyers on May 6, 2010. He is 255-153-37 with a 2.46 GAA, .919 save percentage and 33 shutouts in 457 regular-season games (447 starts) with the Flyers and Blue Jackets and is 11-18 with a 3.14 GAA and .902 save percentage in 34 playoff games.

Tweet from @TheAthleticMIA: How the Florida Panthers became the betting favorites to land both Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi PanarinGM Dale Tallon's sales pitches include no state taxes, sunshine and Coach Q. But the most important attraction is winning, writes @GeorgeRichards:

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