Artemi Panarin

Why Chuck Fletcher, Flyers should get into the Artemi Panarin discussion

Why Chuck Fletcher, Flyers should get into the Artemi Panarin discussion

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Flyers don’t need Bob. 

They need Bread.

Of the potential unrestricted free agents who could hit the market July 1, Artemi Panarin (nicknamed "Bread Man" for Panera) may have shot up to the top of general manager Chuck Fletcher’s wish list.

Then again, Panarin is probably tops on a handful of general managers' list of priorities.

Impressively, the 27-year-old Russian became just the third undrafted player in NHL history to begin his career with four consecutive 70-point seasons, joining a guy named Wayne Gretzky and Peter Stastny.

The Blue Jackets' left winger put on another puck-handling, playmaking clinic against the Flyers in Columbus' 4-3 overtime win Thursday at Nationwide Arena, amplified by the slick pass to defenseman Seth Jones for the game-winner at the end of a 1:24 shift (see observations).

"He's the best player I've seen when he's tired,“ head coach John Tortorella said, “Maybe not defensively, but offensively he is.”

If you’re looking for proof, then watch the move Panarin put on Claude Giroux in the neutral zone to create the easy two-on-one scoring chance.

“He’s one of the best talents in the league, that’s for sure,” Jakub Voracek said. “You never know where he’s going to go with that puck. He’s really good on his edges and he sells every option that you think he’s going to do.”

Undoubtedly, it was more Panarin than Sergei Bobrovsky behind the Blue Jackets' regular-season sweep of the Flyers, as he totaled nine points in the four games. Bobrovsky did just enough to earn the wins, but Panarin was the catalyst behind those victories.

The Jackets are putting all their chips in for this season and they won’t be able to cash out next season.

Panarin, Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel, along with defensemen Ryan Murray and Zach Werenski, all need new contracts, and you can be sure Fletcher will be monitoring the negotiations closely.

“Going into the summer, we have an awful lot of cap space. We have a few young players we have to sign, but we have a lot of cap space,” Fletcher said this week. “I think we’ll be able to fill the needs that we feel we need to address.”

Adding a sniper and sharpshooter from the outside is a player the Flyers haven’t had since the days of Simon Gagne, and those types of players rarely find their way to free agency, especially during the prime years of their careers.

With Panarin’s agent Dan Milstein informing the Blue Jackets they won’t discuss a new deal until after the season is over, it may be to Fletcher’s benefit to see where it goes and perhaps offer up a second-or-third-round draft pick for exclusive negotiating rights to Panarin, in much the same way Paul Holmgren did with Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen in the summer of 2007.

When the Flyers made the change from Ron Hextall to Fletcher, the decision was to win now, and one of the quickest ways to get there is to sign a player of Panarin’s caliber, which could be somewhere in the $10 million range.

Bread would be nice, but you need plenty of dough to get it done.

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NHL Notes: Blackhawks reacquire Saad for Panarin; Rangers send Stepan to Coyotes for No. 7

NHL Notes: Blackhawks reacquire Saad for Panarin; Rangers send Stepan to Coyotes for No. 7

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks have reacquired forward Brandon Saad in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets, parting with top young forward Artemi Panarin to complete the blockbuster deal.

The 24-year-old Saad spent his first four seasons with Chicago, helping the Blackhawks win two Stanley Cups. Concerned about their ability to re-sign Saad when he became a restricted free agent in 2015, the Blackhawks traded the rugged winger to the Blue Jackets.

He had 24 goals and 29 assists in 82 games for Columbus last season.

The Blackhawks also received goaltender Anton Forsberg and a 2018 fifth-round draft pick in Friday's trade in exchange for forwards Panarin and Tyler Motte and Chicago's sixth-round selection on Saturday.

The loss of Panarin is a big blow for Chicago. He teamed with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov to form one of the NHL's most potent lines the past couple seasons.

Rangers send Stepan to Coyotes for DeAngelo, No. 7 pick
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Coyotes have acquired center Derek Stepan and goalie Antti Raanta from the New York Rangers for defenseman Anthony DeAngelo and the seventh overall pick in this year's draft.

The Coyotes have made massive changes since Andrew Barroway became sole owner earlier this month, trading away No. 1 goalie Mike Smith, parting ways with coach Dave Tippett and opting not to offer captain Shane Doan a contract. Arizona also acquired defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson from Chicago earlier Friday.

Stepan and Raanta should address two big needs.

The 27-year-old Stepan had 17 goals and 38 assists in 81 games with the Rangers last season. Raanta went 16-8-2 in 30 games, with four shutouts and a 2.26 goals-against average.

DeAngelo had five goals and nine assists in 39 games last season.

Blackhawks ship defenseman Hjalmarsson to Coyotes
CHICAGO -- The Arizona Coyotes have acquired defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks.

The 30-year-old Hjalmarsson had spent his entire 10-year career with Chicago, helping the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup titles. He had five goals, 13 assists and a team-high 181 blocked shots in 73 games last season.

The Blackhawks received defensemen Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in Friday's trade. The 24-year-old Murphy had two goals and a career-high 15 assists in 77 games with Arizona last season. Dauphin, 22, has appeared in 32 NHL games over the last two seasons.

The trade comes with Arizona in a bit of turmoil. The team announced Thursday on the eve of the NHL draft that coach Dave Tippett was out after eight seasons (see full story).

Kings buy out defeseman Matt Greene
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Kings have bought out the final year of defenseman Matt Greene's contract.

The Kings announced the move Friday.

Greene has been with the Kings since 2008. He provided steady stay-at-home defense during their Stanley Cup championship runs in 2012 and 2014.

But Greene has played in only 29 games over the past two seasons due to serious injuries, and he has played in more than half of the Kings' games in just one season since 2012. He went on injured reserve Jan. 30 and had back surgery.

Greene had a four-year, $10 million contract extension that began in 2014. The buyout turns his $2.5 million cap hit next season into an $833,333 hit in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Greene has 17 goals and 63 assists in 615 games (see full story).