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Blue Jackets' Artemi Panarin to test free agency after firing agent
8 2019 . upi.com. By Connor Grott

Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Columbus Blue Jackets star forward Artemi Panarin fired his agent and said he will test free agency as an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Panarin met with reporters in a rare English-language media session Friday in Las Vegas. The Blue Jackets play the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday.

Sources told the Columbus Dispatch and ESPN that Panarin switched agents and decided against re-signing with the Blue Jackets before the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 25.

Panarin fired his agent Dan Milstein and replaced him with Paul Theofanous, who represents teammate Sergei Bobrovsky.

"I have decided to hire Paul Theofanous as my agent," Panarin said in a statement. "He is very experienced and I'm confident he will serve my interests best going forward. I have no further comment on this at this time. If you have any questions please contact Paul directly."

Panarin explained his reasoning for testing free agency, but didn't rule out a possible return to Columbus.

"It's one life, one chance for free agency and I want to test free agency," Panarin said. "[They] have a chance [to sign me], but we'll see what happens in the summer. I want to still [consider] this season and help the team win the Stanley Cup."

Columbus acquired the 27-year-old forward from the Chicago Blackhawks in June 2017. He leads the team with 20 goals and has 40 assists in 51 games this season.

The Nashville Predators, Boston Bruins and New York Islanders have been linked as possible trade partners with the Blue Jackets if the team decides to move Panarin before the deadline.

A Columbus-based distillery attempted to bribe Panarin in January, promising the young forward unlimited vodka in a billboard ad if he remained with the franchise.

Artemi Panarin having consistently brilliant playoffs for surprise Blue Jackets
April 30,. 2019. By Justin Cuthbert. Yahoo Canada Sport

In a previous era, the distinctions between regular season and playoff hockey might significantly impact a player like Artemi Panarin.

This isnt to say that lesser players with the speed and physicality to employ an impactful lunch-pail style arent on paths to achieving cult-hero status again in these playoffs; this is inevitable. But over time it seems changes to the game have allowed for elite and supremely skilled players to impact proceedings from areas beyond an eight-foot radius from goal.

Now that does somewhat belie a general theme in a postseason that so far has seen all four division winners upset in the opening round and the three players up for the NHLs MVP honour combining for zero postseason wins. But there is no denying the impact that Panarin has had for the Columbus Blue Jackets within the NHLs improved reality.

Through six games played exclusively against the best teams entering each round in the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins, Panarin has registered a point in each including nine total and served as the offensive catalyst for a group carrying a 5-1 postseason record into Tuesdays Game 3 versus Boston.

For any star player, let alone one that thrives at the perimeter, the postseason is supposed to present challenges that force dips in production as the opposition digs into matchups with renewed focus and effort.

Panarin, though, has delivered a consistent stream of production, and only grown more impactful as the games have become more difficult. 

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