Panarin is set to become an unrestricted free agent after next season, so Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen is testing the market for him as a result, Friedman adds.
The Blue Jackets do have the cap room to keep Panarin - barring an otherworldly contract request - but if he isn't interested in a contract extension, then trading him now in exchange for assets would be better than losing him to free agency for nothing.
Panarin, 26, enjoyed a stellar season with the Blue Jackets, totaling 27 goals and 82 points in 81 games. He was acquired by Columbus from the Chicago Blackhawks roughly a year ago in exchange for forward Brandon Saad.
The Blue Jackets unquestionably got the the better player in the deal, but the Blackhawks likely feared they wouldn't be able to sign Panarin long term, which is why they re-acquired Saad, who is under contract through 2020-21 at $6 million - the same cap hit as Panarin.
The Blackhawks' fears are now becoming a reality for the Blue Jackets. However, there'll certainly be no shortage of teams willing to give up a big haul in order to acquire the dynamic forward.
For now, Kekalainen remains intent on getting Panarin signed.