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Report: Panarin would seriously consider return to Blackhawks in free agency

Kirk Irwin / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Artemi Panarin doesn't appear to be opposed to the proposition of a Windy City reunion, as the superstar winger would seriously consider a return to the Chicago Blackhawks if he becomes an unrestricted free agent after the 2018-19 season, a source told The Athletic's Scott Powers.

Panarin told the Blue Jackets he's not ready to sign an extension in Columbus, and the club reportedly began to test the market for him in June. The 26-year-old sniper also said he won't negotiate once camp opens Sept. 13, so his future with the organization is largely up in the air at this point.

After going undrafted and spending seven years in the KHL, Panarin chose the Blackhawks as his first NHL club in 2015, finding immediate success on a line with Patrick Kane. He won the Calder Trophy on the strength of a 77-point rookie season, then followed up with 74 points in 2016-17 before Chicago sent him to Columbus in exchange for Brandon Saad.

While the Blackhawks got the cost certainty they were hoping for in acquiring Saad, the trade didn't pan out for them at all in Year One, as Saad recorded just 35 points in 82 games. Meanwhile, Panarin notched 82 points and carried the Blue Jackets to the postseason as the driving force of their attack.

Panarin has one more season remaining at $6 million before he hits the open market, where he's sure to have a litany of suitors.

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