Although this is expected to be a big offseason for many of the NHL’s restricted free agents, there are plenty of unrestricted free agents who likely will be finding new homes and earning big deals.

One of those UFAs — and it’s been little secret his eyes are set elsewhere — is Artemi Panarin.

The winger reportedly was shopped by the Columbus Blue Jackets ahead of the trade deadline, but the Jackets ultimately decided to bet on themselves, keep Panarin and load up at the deadline in an effort to make a deep playoff run. They put up a valiant effort, sweeping the Presidents Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round before falling to the Boston Bruins in six games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Panarin made pretty clear that he would not be re-signing with the Jackets, and it appears the sweepstakes for his services are a three-team race.

In his 31 Thoughts column, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman indicated that it “looks like” the battle is between the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and New York Rangers.

None of those three are surprises, as they’ve been rumored spots for some time now. Panarin, though he’ll come with a hefty price tag, has a lot to offer, especially as a sniper on the power play.

It’s shaping up to be a fascinating free agency period, but it seems like 28 teams need not worry about throwing their proverbial hat into the Panarin ring.

Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images