The Columbus Blue Jackets intend to try to sign forward Artemi Panarin to a new contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent after next season, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said Tuesday.
Kekalainen was responding to a tweet by Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet that said Panarin, 26, told the Blue Jackets "he is not ready to consider an extension 'at this time.' As a result, the Blue Jackets are testing the market for him."
"Artemi is an elite National Hockey League player," Kekalainen said. "Our position has been that we want him to be a Blue Jacket for many years, and that has not changed. He has a year left on his contract, so there is plenty of time to work toward that end. Should anything change moving forward, we will address it at that time and any decision we make will be in the best interest of our club."
Panarin led the Blue Jackets in scoring this season with an NHL career high 82 points (27 goals, NHL career high 55 assists) in 81 games.
He was traded to Columbus by the Chicago Blackhawks with center Tyler Motte and a sixth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft for forward Brandon Saad, goaltender Anton Forsberg and a fifth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft on June 23, 2017.
Video: Discussing Kekalainen on aiming to re-sign Panarin
Panarin signed a two-year contract with the Blackhawks as a free agent May 1, 2015, after seven seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League. He signed a second two-year contract with Chicago on Dec. 28, 2016.
He has 233 points (88 goals, 145 assists) in 243 games during three NHL seasons with the Blackhawks and Blue Jackets. He won the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year in 2015-16 after he had 77 points (30 goals, 47 assists) in 80 games for Chicago.