Panarin is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in July 2019, and he's already stated he won't discuss a contract extension during the season. Kekalainen's next move is unclear, but he's seemingly made it known that Panarin isn't on the trade block.
TSN's Darren Dreger said Wednesday on "Insider Trading" that Kekalainen "has no interest in trading him and his principle point of interest is trying to convince him to re-sign."
Panarin arrived in Columbus via trade in 2017 and registered a career-high 82 points in his first season with Blue Jackets before adding seven more in six playoff contests. With him in the fold, Columbus has a significant chance at competing again in the Metropolitan Division but faces the risk of losing him for nothing if he decides to bolt in free agency.
Columbus faces a similar predicament with all-world goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who is also a UFA in 2019 and said at the start of training camp that he's already informed the team of his future plans.