John Tortorella said uncertainty surrounding forward Artemi Panarin and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky won't have a negative impact on the Columbus Blue Jackets this season.
"It doesn't. It can't. It won't," the 60-year-old coach told The Athletic in remarks published Saturday. "It's out there. You guys have to report on it. It's one of my biggest parts of my job this year, to handle it. Do we want those to be distractions? Are we going to be able to handle it as a room, or does it turn into a distraction? I think I need to coach that. But [stuff] happens. We're not the only team that has things go on like this."
Panarin and Bobrovsky each can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2019, and there has been speculation Panarin will not sign a new contract with the Blue Jackets and may be traded.
Video: The futures of Panarin and Bobrovsky in Columbus
Tortorella said he is not angry at Panarin.
"I'm disappointed that there's talk he may be leaving," he said. "But I'm not going to coach him any differently. He's going to be put in every [darn] situation I can find to put him in, because he gives us a really good opportunity to win hockey games."
Panarin had NHL career highs in assists (55) and points (82) last season, his third in the NHL and first in Columbus after being traded by the Chicago Blackhawks on June 23, 2017. The 26-year-old and Bobrovsky, who turns 30 on Sept. 20, each became eligible for a contract extension July 1, but Panarin informed the Blue Jackets he does not want to sign long term with them.
"It's about, does he want to spend the next eight years in Columbus?" his agent, Daniel Milstein, told The Athletic in early July. "That's the only thing at stake right now. If it was a two-year deal, we probably would have done it. But it isn't a two-year deal. It's [going to] have to be an extended, seven- or eight-year deal put in place."
On July 19, Milstein told the website that Panarin will not negotiate a new contract once training camp begins Sept. 13.
Tortorella, who is 129-87-23 in three seasons with the Blue Jackets, is in the final year of his contract but reportedly is close to an extension.
"Still working on it. Still talking," said Tortorella, who signed a one-year contract extension July 31, 2017.