Jarmo Kekalainen's phone has been lit up like a Christmas tree since Monday.
Dan Milstein, a chief executive of Artem Panarin's agent, is the ultimate leader in the field.
"It’s disappointing," Kekalainen told reporters Tuesday. "But we can do our best."
The consensus now is that it is more likely to be traded than not.
That makes Panarin the new No. 1 is TSN's Trade Bait board, bumping Matt Duchene and his uncertain future in Ottawa down to No. 2.
Rarely does a talent like the Bread Man at any point on the hockey calendar. Panarin, 27, is one of the few wingers who drives play on a nightly basis. He is on a pace for a career-best 33 goals and 96 points.
Unlike fellow pending unrestricted free agent Sergei Bobrovsky, Panarin does not have any-trade protection and can be moved to any team.
Panarin is the golden TradeCentre chip that both playoffs and rebuilding teams covet.
But Kekalainen is facing the ultimate manager's conundrum before the Feb. 25 deadline. They do not have to worry about the fact that they are not the only ones who do not want to pay the price.
Panarin finished 25 points clear of the Blue Jackets' next closest scorer last season. Clearly, Kekalan needs some of the current roster players with futures in prospects and first-round picks.
What Kekalainen can get for Panarin's interest or willingness to negotiate a long-term extension with a potential suitor.
Quoted by underwelming returns offered for pending UFAs Jack Johnson and Matt Calvert last year, which is why the Blue Jackets ended up keeping them to make a run.
The bet is Kekalainen won't have the same flexibility this time around.
"We've got all the time to make hard decisions if we have to," Kekalainen told reporters. “But our focus is on getting better, making it as well as possible for the future, obviously. If we have a hard decision, we will. We like Artemi and would like to keep him. It 's right to go to the free agency, and if they chooses to do so we' ll be knocking on his door July 1 ”
Here's the TSN Hockey's latest Trade Bait Board, which always strives for a prominence of being traded:
|1. Artemi Panarin, CBJ||LW||27||47||19||55||$ 6M||UFA|
|2. Matt Duchene, OTT||C||28||41||20||47||$ 6M||UFA|
|3. Wayne Simmonds, PHI||RW||30||50||15||23||$ 3.98M||UFA|
|4. Micheal Ferland, CAR||LW||26||41||13||25||$ 1.75M||UFA|
|5. Mats Zuccarello, NYR||RW||31||35||8||24||$ 4.5M||UFA|
|6. Dougie Hamilton, CAR||RD||25||50||8||19||$ 5.75M||2|
|7. Gustav Nyquist, DET||RW||29||51||11||43||$ 4.75M||UFA|
|8. Cam Talbot, EDM||G||31||27||3.27||.894||$ 4.17M||UFA|
|9. Derick Brassard, PIT||C||31||40||9||15||$ 5M||UFA|
|10. Sergei Bobrovsky, CBJ||G||30||35||2.97||.902||$ 7.43M||UFA|
|11. Jakub Silfverberg, ANA||RW||28||42||12||19||$ 3.75M||UFA|
|12. Jimmy Howard, DET||G||34||34||2.76||.916||$ 5.3M||UFA|
|13. Charlie Coyle, MIN||C||26||50||9||26||$ 3.2M||1|
|14. Alec Martinez, LAK||RD||31||36||3||11||$ 4M||2|
|15. Kevin Hayes, NYR||C||26||40||10||33||$ 5.18M||UFA|
|16. Brayden Schenn, STL||C||27||45||9||27||$ 5.13M||1|
|17. Colton Parayko, STL||RD||25||49||8||13||$ 5.5M||3|
|18. Jeff Carter, LAK||C||33||49||10||25||$ 5.27M||3|
|19. Cody Ceci, OTT||RD||24||46||5||15||$ 4.3M||RFA|
|20. Brett Pesce, CAR||RD||23||41||3||11||$ 4.03M||5|
|21. Alex Edler, VAN||LD||32||36||5||20||$ 5M||UFA|
|22. Andre Burakovsky, WSH||LW||23||44||6||12||$ 3M||RFA|
|23. Marcus Johansson, NJD||LW||28||37||7||17||$ 4.58M||UFA|
|24. Chris Kreider, NYR||LW||27||49||22||37||$ 4.63M||1|
|25. Mark Stone, OTT||RW||26||50||22||50||$ 7.35M||UFA|
|26. Nick Bjugstad, FLA||C / RW||26||32||5||12||$ 4.1M||2|
|27. Justin Faulk, CAR||RD||26||50||3||17||$ 4.83M||1|
|28. Alex Steen, STL||LW||34||35||6||15||$ 5.75M||2|
|29. Jay Bouwmeester, STL||LD||35||45||2||10||$ 5.4M||UFA|
|30. Kasperi Kapanen, TOR||RW||22||49||15||30||$ 863K||RFA|
|31. Andreas Johnsson, TOR||LW||24||43||10||22||$ 788K||RFA|
|32. Ryan Dzingel, OTT||LW||26||48||20||38||$ 1.8M||UFA|
|33. Patrick Maroon, STL||LW||30||41||4||14||$ 1.75M||UFA|
|34. Jesse Puljujarvi, EDM||RW||20||39||4||9||$ 925K||RFA|
|35. Adam McQuaid, NYR||RD||32||25||0||3||$ 2.75M||UFA|
|36. Niklas Kronwall, DET||LD||38||48||2||14||$ 4.75M||UFA|
|37. Bogdan Kiselvich, FLA||LD||28||31||0||8||$ 925K||UFA|
|38. Chris Tanev, VAN||RD||29||46||2||10||$ 4.45M||1|
|39. Vlad Namestnikov, NYR||LW||25||45||4||16||$ 4M||1|
|40. Carl Hagelin, LAK||LW||30||29||2||6||$ 4M||UFA|
|41. Nathan Beaulieu, BUF||LD||26||26||3||7||$ 2.4M||RFA|
|42. Dale Weise, PHI||RW||30||42||5||11||$ 2.35M||1|
|43. Mikkel Boedker, OTT||LW||29||50||5||27||$ 4M||1|
|44. Sam Gagner, VAN||RW||29||7||1||3||$ 3.15M||1|
|45. Jeff Skinner, BUF||LW||26||49||31||45||$ 5.73M||UFA|
No. 5: Maple Leafs First-Round Pick – Toronto to Los Angeles is Jan. 28
No. 13: Chris Wideman – Ottawa to Edmonton on Nov. 22
No. 14: Tanner Pearson – Los Angeles to Pittsburgh on Nov. 14
No. 17: Jake Muzzin – Los Angeles to Toronto is Jan. 28
No. 27: Alex Petrovic – Florida to Edmonton on Dec. 29
No. 27: Nino Niederreiter – Minnesota to Carolina is Jan. 17
No. 28: Brandon Manning – Chicago to Edmonton on Dec. 29
No. 35: Michael Del Zotto – Vancouver to Anaheim is Jan. 16
No. 35: Jamie Oleksiak – Pittsburgh to Dallas is Jan. 29
No. 36: Luke Schenn – Anaheim to Vancouver on Jan. 16
Contact Frank Seravalli is Twitter: @frank_seravalli