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Frank Seravalli

TSN Senior Hockey Reporter

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One of the worst-kept secrets in hockey has been the Florida Panthers’ burning desire to land both Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin in a package deal.

A little fuel was added to that fire last week when Panarin fired his agent and hired Paul Theofanous, who represents Bobrovsky.

But the question has been: What could the Panthers offer to pull off this blockbuster?

Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau could potentially be a part of that puzzle, which is why he is the latest member to join the TSN Trade Bait board at No. 20.

GM Jarmo Kekalainen and the Blue Jackets are in search of a package that allows Columbus to remain in the playoff race while also adding future assets. The belief is that it would certainly take more than a package surrounding Derick Brassard and other expiring contracts.

Huberdeau, 25, is nearly a point-per-game winger who would certainly check that box. He also comes with cost certainty, with four years remaining on his deal at $5.9 million.

Huberdeau has a no-move clause that kicks in on July 1.

What the Panthers must weigh is how heavy of a price they should pay now for two pending UFAs who will likely be available on Canada Day.

Since Panthers GM Dale Tallon already unloaded more than $5 million in commitments for next season in Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann to Pittsburgh, there is really no need to unload a high-salaried player like Huberdeau to be able to go after Bobrovsky and Panarin. 

Yes, keeping Huberdeau would certainly make for an intriguing top six with Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck, Mike Hoffman, Evgeni Dadonov and Panarin.

The key to a return like Huberdeau from the Columbus perspective may well be allowing a potential suitor like Florida permission to negotiate with Theofanous.

That is where the agent change could come in. Panarin’s former agent, Dan Milstein, was not shy in saying repeatedly that they wouldn’t negotiate with any team during the season because Panarin had his sights set on making it to July 1.

Does Panarin’s switch to Theofanous represent a difference in that philosophy? Panarin said last week in his first interview in English that he remains intent on making it to free agency.

"It's one life, one chance for free agent and I want to test [free agency]," Panarin told reporters. "We'll see what happens in the summer, but right now I don't know what I want ... it's 10 per cent of my life, seven or eight years, you know? I want to stay happy every day and see more options."

These are all questions that could be answered in the next two weeks.

"Interesting situation," Panarin said when asked about a Bobrovsky package deal. "I really like [Bobrovsky] and we're big friends right now. But we have two different lives."

Here is TSN Hockey’s latest Trade Bait board, which always seeks to blend a player’s prominence with his likelihood of a trade:
 

The Top 50

 
Trend Player Pos Age GP G PTS Cap Hit Years
  1. Artemi Panarin, CBJ LW 27 52 21 63 $6M UFA
  2. Matt Duchene, OTT C 28 46 25 53 $6M UFA
  3. Wayne Simmonds, PHI RW 30 55 16 24 $3.98M UFA
  4. Jets' 1st-Round Pick              
  5. Mark Stone, OTT RW 26 55 25 56 $7.35M UFA
  6. Mats Zuccarello, NYR RW 31 41 9 32 $4.5M UFA
  7. Dougie Hamilton, CAR RD 25 56 10 22 $5.75M 2
  8. Gustav Nyquist, DET RW 29 56 14 47 $4.75M UFA
  9. Charlie Coyle, MIN C 26 56 10 28 $3.2M 1
  10. Sergei Bobrovsky, CBJ G 30 39 2.98 .901 $7.43M UFA
  11. Micheal Ferland, CAR LW 26 47 14 28 $1.75M UFA
  12. Cam Talbot, EDM G 31 31 3.36 .893 $4.17M UFA
  13. Jimmy Howard, DET G 34 37 2.78 .913 $5.3M UFA
  14. Kevin Hayes, NYR C 26 46 13 38 $5.18M UFA
  15. Brett Pesce, CAR RD 23 47 5 15 $4.03M 5
  16. Marcus Johansson, NJD LW 28 43 10 22 $4.58M UFA
  17. Adam Henrique, ANA C 29 56 10 28 $5.83M 5
  18. Jack Roslovic, WPG RW/C 22 55 7 16 $894K 1
  19. Brayden Schenn, STL C 27 50 10 33 $5.13M 1
Embedded Image 20. Jonathan Huberdeau, FLA LW 25 54 13 52 $5.9M 4
  21. Artem Anisimov, CHI C 30 52 8 24 $4.55M 2
  22. Derick Brassard, FLA C 31 45 10 18 $5M UFA
  23. Cody Ceci, OTT RD 24 51 5 18 $4.3M RFA
  24. Jakub Silfverberg, ANA RW 28 47 12 20 $3.75M UFA
  25. Luke Glendening, DET C 29 56 8 18 $1.8M 2
Embedded Image 26. Alex Chiasson, EDM RW 28 46 17 27 $650K UFA
  27. Andre Burakovsky, WSH LW 23 49 7 15 $3M RFA
  28. Justin Faulk, CAR RD 26 56 5 20 $4.83M 1
  29. Adam McQuaid, NYR RD 32 31 2 5 $2.75M UFA
  30. Ryan Dzingel, OTT LW 26 53 21 41 $1.8M UFA
  31. Jeff Carter, LAK C 33 51 10 25 $5.27M 3
  32. Chris Kreider, NYR LW 27 55 24 42 $4.63M 1
  33. Colton Parayko, STL RD 25 54 9 16 $5.5M 3
  34. Alex Steen, STL LW 34 40 6 10 $5.75M 2
  35. Alec Martinez, LAK RD 31 41 3 12 $4M 2
  36. Jay Bouwmeester, STL LD 35 50 2 12 $5.4M UFA
  37. Carl Hagelin, LAK LW 30 34 2 8 $4M UFA
  38. Andreas Johnsson, TOR LW 24 49 14 28 $788K RFA
  39. Patrick Maroon, STL LW 30 46 4 14 $1.75M UFA
  40. Alex Edler, VAN LD 32 38 5 20 $5M UFA
  41. Ben Lovejoy, NJD RD 34 46 1 6 $2.67M UFA
  42. Chris Tanev, VAN RD 29 51 2 12 $4.45M 1
  43. Vlad Namestnikov, NYR LW 25 51 4 16 $4M 1
  44. Nikolay Goldobin, VAN LW 23 49 6 24 $863K RFA
  45. Nathan Beaulieu, BUF LD 26 27 3 7 $2.4M RFA
  46. Mikkel Boedker, OTT LW 29 51 6 28 $4M 1
  47. Tobias Rieder, EDM LW 26 41 0 9 $2M RFA
  48. Jamie McGinn, FLA LW 30 0 0 0 $3.33M UFA
  49. Kasperi Kapanen, TOR RW 22 55 16 32 $863K RFA
  50. Jeff Skinner, BUF LW 26 55 33 50 $5.73M UFA
 

Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli​