Blue Jackets breakup begins as Panarin, Duchene and Bobrovsky all sign elsewhere

Blue Jackets

COLUMBUS (AP) — NHL free agency is under way with all eyes on the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Matt Duchene is heading to Music City, and the anticipated breakup of the Blue Jackets’ star core of players began with the start of the NHL’s free agency signing period.

A person with direct knowledge of discussions told The Associated Press that Duchene had agreed to a seven-year, $56 million contract with the Nashville Predators. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been announced Monday, less than an hour into free agency.

Duchene, fellow forward Artemi Panarin and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky were among the top available players entering free agency after finishing last season with Columbus.

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Panarin agreed to a seven year, $81.5 million deal with the New York Rangers.

Panarin told the Columbus Blue Jackets a year ago he would not sign an extension and wanted to test free agency. The Florida Panthers and New York Rangers are among the teams that brought Panarin in for a free agent visit.

The 27-year-old recorded 28 goals and 59 assists for a career-high 87 points last season.

According to the NHL on NBC’s Twitter account, goalkeeper Sergei Bobrovsky has signed with the Florida Panthers.

The Blue Jackets have re-signed defenseman Ryan Murray to a two-year contract. The 25-year-old Murray, a restricted free agent, was a key blue-liner last year for Columbus despite missing the last 24 games with an injury. He set career highs for in assists (28), points (29) and plus-minus rating.

Murray has registered 13 goals and 88 assists in 320 career games since making his NHL debut in 2013-14.

The Blue Jackets have also re-signed goalie Joonas Korpisalo to a one-year contract.

The 25-year-old Korpisalo was a restricted free agent who had a 10-7-3 record and 2.95 goals-against average in 27 games backing up Bobrovsky last season.

General manager Jarmo Kekäläinen says the upcoming season will provide Korpisalo “a great opportunity to prove himself,” and is confident the goalie is ready for that challenge.

The Blue Jackets selected Korpisalo in the third round of the 2012 out of Finland. He has a 41-31-9 record in 90 career NHL games.

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