Blue Jackets' Artemi Panarin to test free agency after firing agent

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.

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