Artemi Panarin’s unwillingness to negotiate a contract extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets is a matter of term. Panarin isn’t holding out to try to make more money on the open market, but that he’s simply not ready to commit to staying in the state of Ohio long-term. Daniel Milstein said: “He’s not ready to sign. Is he gonna sign? Look at it this way, I don’t even know what they’re going to offer. I’ve read some comments that this is the agent’s work, that we’re holding out to get the most money out of them, but it isn’t. I think they’d give him $11 million if he really wanted it. But I haven’t even discussed anything with them. I’ve seen reports of $9 million to $10 million. You’ve seen the recent signings that are happening. We’re not holding out for more money, because if I called [Blue Jackets general manager] Jarmo [Kekalainen] right now, he’d probably drive up to my house and we’d put a deal together. [Panarin’s] biggest thing is… he loves the team, he loves the coach. It’s not the team or the way they treat him. It’s about does he want to spend the next eight years in Columbus? 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 gonna have to be an extended, seven- or eight-year deal put in place”. Panarin, 26, excelled in his first season with the Blue Jackets, leading the team in both goals and assists after being traded from the Chicago Blackhawks a year ago. Milstein insisted that Panarin’s decision to inform the team he was not ready to negotiate a long-term deal was out of respect for the franchise: “Panarin and I … we didn’t want to do a dog-and-pony show like we’ve seen with players in the past. The way he’s treated in Columbus, I don’t think it’s possible to be treated any better anywhere else. He’s well taken care of, let’s put it that way. He didn’t want to mess with them. That’s basically the message: ‘I don’t know if I want to be here for the next eight years. I haven’t decided.’ I’ve told [Panarin] he could end up in a [different] market [via trade] for the next year if you tell [the Blue Jackets] about it now. He basically said, ‘That’s okay. I just don’t want to mess with the team. If I decide not to stay, no one would ever blame me and say I played games [with them] and walked for nothing at the 11th hour. So if they can get something… [But], if they decide to keep me, they should know the risks associated with that.’ There’s never been a disagreement or an argument. We’ve been truthful and honest. I told [Panarin] of the risk, but he said it was a good time to let the team know so that they can plan ahead. We told them before the draft.” As for the trade rumours that have surrounded Panarin since he informed the Blue Jackets of his uncertainty, Milstein said Panarin has not asked to be traded, nor has he given the Blue Jackets a list of teams he would negotiate a long-term deal with. Kekalainen, meanwhile, is expected to meet with Panarin in Europe this summer and has continued to deny that the winger is on the trade block.
The Islanders have agreed to a one-year, $2 million contract with forward Jan Kovar. Kovar chose the Islanders among several teams interested in signing him. The 28-year-old Kovar played the past five seasons in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League with Magnitogorsk Metallurg, averaging more than a point per game with 286 points (97 goals and 189 assists) in 285 games. Prior to his years in the KHL, Kovar played for Plzen HC in the Czech Extraliga. He scored 162 points (60 goals and 102 assists) in 236 games.
The Canadiens have hired Luke Richardson as an assistant coach. The Ottawa native spent last season as an assistant coach with the Islanders. Richardson, a former NHL defenceman, will work with Canadiens blue-liners on head coach Claude Julien’s staff. “I’m delighted with the addition of Luke Richardson to our coaching staff,” Julien said. “Luke is a very credible hockey person and a very knowledgeable coach. We undertook a process to select a coach with specific criteria in mind, and after taking the time to meet with several candidates, we’re very happy that Luke accepted to join our group. He has already been told that his role on our staff will be to work with our defensemen.” The 49-year-old guided Team Canada to gold at the Spengler Cup in the 2016-17 season. Previously, Richardson served as head coach for the AHL’s Binghamton Senators from 2012-16. He was an assistant coach with the Ottawa Senators from 2008-12. He spent 21 seasons in the NHL as a player, posting 35 goals and 201 points in 1,417 games. “We’re very pleased with the hiring of Luke Richardson as an assistant coach,” general manager Marc Bergevin said in a release. “Luke has tremendous experience, both as a player in the NHL and as a coach. He also had the opportunity to work internationally with Hockey Canada, which gives him excellent credibility among young players. We’re very happy that he has joined the Canadiens organization.” Earlier this off-season, the Canadiens hired Dominique Ducharme from the QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs as an assistant coach. Other coaches on the staff associate coach Kirk Muller, goaltending coach Stephane Waite and video coach Mario Leblanc.