A “smattering” of Columbus Blue Jackets fans booed Artemi Panarin during Tuesday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres.
The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline reports that there was such a smattering of boos when Panarin’s name was mentioned during starting lineup announcements, and also often when he touched the puck. Such rumblings were also audible to the Columbus Dispatch’s Brian Hedger when Panarin’s name was mentioned after Columbus goals, with things being a bit louder on his first assist of the game than his second.
It’s easy to realize why the boos are coming, whether they’re only a “smattering” or not. This is Panarin’s first game with the Blue Jackets since his agent Dan Millstein announced that Panarin will not discuss “Artemi’s future during the season.”
Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen hasn’t totally ignored the questions about how he should approach the trade deadline regarding Panarin (and Sergei Bobrovsky), considering the fact that both high-level players could leave via unrestricted free agency, with the Blue Jackets getting nothing after the 2018-19 season concludes. In fact, Kekalainen even teased a will-they or won’t-they scenario to Portzline earlier on Tuesday (sub required).
“My phone has been ringing off the hook today,” Kekalainen said. “I can only answer one at a time, but I’m pretty good at returning phone calls.”
In the video above this post’s headline, you can see a Monday segment where Jeremy Roenick and Anson Carter discuss the tough situation Columbus is in.
Carter argues in favor of Columbus keeping Panarin, even if that means losing him for nothing in free agency after a run in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He then adds that the Blue Jackets didn’t sell off Jack Johnson during the 2018 trade deadline, which seems like an unequal comparison – sorry Jack, but Panarin and Bob are basically another planet from a value perspective – but Kekalainen provided similar thoughts to Portzline, so maybe that’s indeed the way to go?
But then again, there are other, human elements to consider. What if things get weird for Panarin and/or Bob in front of home fans? Could these questions provide too many distractions for the Blue Jackets? How hard should the Blue Jackets chase that first-ever playoff series win? How far could they go with Joonas Korpisalo?
This is indeed a tough situation, and nights like Tuesday remind you that fans are often plugged in to these situations. For all we know, things could get awfully awkward.
Then again, losing is awkward too, right?
The Blue Jackets fought back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game 4-4, but the Sabres ended up winning 5-4 in regulation on Tuesday. So a tough night overall for Columbus.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.