The next time Artemi Panarin plays at the United Center in Chicago it likely won’t be in a Blue Jackets uniform.
But it also likely won’t be in a Blackhawks uniform, either, after the Russian winger provided a blunt answer to the media Saturday after Columbus’ 5-2 win when asked if former teammate Patrick Kane would influence his free agency decision.
One to get cheer up #Blackhawks fans, from Panarin:— Brian Hedger (@BrianHedger) February 17, 2019
“I would especially like to thank the fans for the warm welcome. I really appreciate it. I really miss the fans in Chicago.”
And then a kick in the crotch to #Blackhawks fans ...— Brian Hedger (@BrianHedger) February 17, 2019
Asked if Kane possibly reaching out to him in the summer would influence his decision in free agency, Panarin gave a one-word reply.
Panarin scored two goals and assist on another goal in the win over the Blackhawks.
The 27-year-old Panarin tallied 61 goals and 90 assists in two seasons with Kane and the Blackhawks before they traded the 2016 Calder Trophy winner to Columbus. Since the move, Panarin has become the Blue Jackets’ leading scorer and led them to two playoff wins in the first round last season before the eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals rattled off four straight victories.
On Feb. 8, Panarin fired his agent, Dan Milstein, in favor of Paul Theofanous, the agent of Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, and said he’d test free agency this summer.
That move caused some Blackhawks fans to go into a frenzy thinking about the team bringing Panarin back to Chicago despite the fact that he’d command more than $10 million in salary cap space per year. Chicago already has devoted $10.5 million per year each to Jonathan Toews and Kane, and is expected to sign 21-year-old Alex DeBrincat — who has scored 57 goals in only 141 games — to an extension before he becomes a restricted free agent in 2020.