Forwards Artemi Panarin (who signed a seven-year contract worth an average annual value of $11.642 million with the New York Rangers), Matt Duchene (who signed a seven-year contract worth $8 million with the Nashville Predators), and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (who signed a seven-year contract worth $10 million with the Florida Panthers) all left the Columbus Blue Jackets as unrestricted free agents on Monday afternoon.
With all of the losses, the Blue Jackets lost 14% of their offensive production from last season and arguably one of the league’s top goaltenders.
Panarin, 27, led the Blue Jackets in assists (59) and points (87) for the second consecutive season after the club acquired him in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks two summers ago. His 87 points this past season were a career-high for him. Panarin also led the team with six assists and 11 points in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He also co-led them with five goals along with Duchene.
He has expressed a desire to sign in one of the biggest hockey markets throughout the past year.
The Islanders add a natural game breaker and sniper to play on their top line after they finished 22nd in the NHL with an average of 2.72 goals-per-game and captain Anders Lee, who scored 28 goals last season, left in free agency.
Panarin and Bobrovsky have each been hesitant about their commitment level to stay with the Blue Jackets since they both became eligible to sign contract extensions on July 1, 2018. While each of their futures in Columbus beyond this season were not looking good for the team, the Blue Jackets decided to keep them after the trade deadline and acquired Duchene and Dzingel to load up for a Stanley Cup run.
Bobrovsky, 30, posted a 37-24-1 record with a .913 save percentage, 2.58 goals-against average, and a league-high nine shutouts during the 2018-19 regular-season. The two time Vezina Trophy winner went 6-4 with a .925 save percentage and a 2.41 goals-against average in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where the Blue Jackets swept the Presidents’ Trophy winners in the Tampa Bay Lightning in the First Round. In 457 career games with the Blue Jackets and Philadelphia Flyers, Bobrovsky has recorded a 255-153-37 record, a .919 save percentage, a 2.46 goals-against average, and 33 shutouts.
The Panthers finally find a No. 1 goaltender after their goalies posted a .906 save percentage last season, the second-worst in the NHL only behind the San Jose Sharks (.897).
Duchene recorded four goals, 12 points, and a -1 rating in 23 regular-season games with the Blue Jackets after they acquired him along with forward prospect Julius Bergman from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for forward prospects Vitaly Abramov and Jonathan Davidsson, a first-round pick in 2019, and a conditional first-round pick in 2020 (which will not be sent to Ottawa since Duchene left the Blue Jackets). The 28-year old finished the regular season with 31 goals, 70 points, and a -3 rating in 73 games and tallied 10 points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
He has been linked to the Predators since 2017 because of his love for country music and the fact that they needed another center. The Colorado Avalanche sent Duchene to Ottawa via the Predators later that year. In 727 career games with the Avalanche, Senators, and Blue Jackets, Duchene has recorded 232 goals, 547 points, and a -86 rating.
Nashville adds center depth and help on the power-play with the addition of Duchene. Their 12.9% efficiency on the man advantage last season was the worst in the NHL despite adding offensive weapons like Wayne Simmonds and Mikael Granlund at the trade deadline. Duchene posted 14 points on the power-play last season.
Forward Ryan Dzingel also remains unsigned as an unrestricted free agent. The 27-year old tallied four goals, 12 points, and a +4 rating in 21 games with the Blue Jackets after they acquired him along with a seventh-round pick from the Senators in exchange for two second-round picks in 2020 and 2021 in addition to forward Anthony Duclair. He finished the season with 26 goals, 56 points, and a -9 rating in 78 games with the Senators and Blue Jackets. In 268 career games, the 27-year old has posted 66 goals, 138 points, and a -15 rating.
The Blue Jackets, whom star center Joe Pavelski reportedly declined to speak to during the UFA interview period, have $28,649,251 in cap space with forward Lukas Sedlak, defensemen Scott Harrington, Zach Werenski, Ryan Murray, and goaltender Joonas Korpisalo to re-sign as all of them are currently restricted free agents.
By Harrison Brown