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Panarin, Bobrovsky should make most of contract situation, Atkinson says

Forward, goalie each can become unrestricted free agent July 1 @NHLdotcom

Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky each should get the most out of his situation as a pending unrestricted free agent, Columbus Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson said Monday.

"You only get so many chances in your career to have this opportunity, so why not take advantage of the situation?" Atkinson told The Columbus Dispatch after the Blue Jackets practiced in Denver, adding that he hopes each player re-signs.

Panarin, a 27-year-old forward, and Bobrovsky, a 30-year-old goalie, each can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. Panarin's agent announced last week that his client would enter into contract negotiations after the season, and Bobrovsky stated before the season the Blue Jackets knew where he stood, hinting that he may not re-sign.


[RELATED: NHL Trade Buzz: Blue Jackets deal with Panarin, Bobrovsky uncertainty]


General manager Jarmo Kekalainen has stated several times he has tough decisions to make on Panarin and Bobrovsky before the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 25 at 3 p.m. ET. 

Atkinson said he has spoken to each player with the hopes of getting them to stay with Columbus (28-20-3), which currently holds the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference, three points ahead of the Buffalo Sabres.

"Everyone's different. I love it here. I started playing my career here (in 2011), I want to finish it here," Atkinson said. "So everyone's different. So that's all I can say about that."

Coach John Tortorella said Monday that the Blue Jackets, who have lost a season-high five straight games, had a meeting Sunday to discuss possible distractions from the Panarin and Bobrovsky situation. 

"I think we've had a couple of very pointed, honest meetings, more honest than some, in Winnipeg and [Denver]," Tortorella said. "We're just trying to solve problems, and the way you solve them is trying to do it together."

Captain Nick Foligno told the Dispatch the meeting provided the opportunity for the Blue Jackets to talk hockey and find ways to end their losing streak when they play the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET; ALT, FS-O, NHL.TV). 

"It was a good chance for us to bury any excuse and just refocus on what really matters and how to get out of this," Foligno said. 

Atkinson said he doesn't think the contract situation and looming trade deadline has affected Panarin, who has seven points (two goals, five assists) in a four-game point streak and leads Columbus with 59 points (20 goals, 39 assists) in 49 games. 

"He's just the type of player that, he's a star player, so I don't think anything phases him," Atkinson said. "It's pretty crazy. A lot of guys would probably go the other way. So I think everyone can learn something from that."

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