January 30, 2019 | 11:54am ET



Artemi Panarin, left wing


The New York Islanders may look to make a big splash ahead of the Feb. 25 trade deadline and could set their sights on the No.1 target on TFP’s Top 30 Trade Watch List.

On Jan. 20, TFP Editor-in-Chief David Pagnotta reported via Twitter the Islanders are expected “to be active as the deadline approaches.”

According to Pagnotta, the Islanders are willing to part with their first-round draft pick in the right deal, and that the club is exploring options on both the rental front and players with term remaining on their contracts.

As TFP reported multiple times in the off-season, the Islanders have previously expressed significant interest in Columbus Blue Jackets star winger Artemi Panarin and are believed to be looking at him once again.

Panarin informed the Blue Jackets this week, through his agent, that he does not intend on signing an extension with the team during the season and will save any negotiations for the off-season, fueling speculation the team might be forced to move him ahead of the deadline.

“We’ve said all along we’re going to make hard decisions if we have to, but our focus is on getting our team better and making it as competitive as possible for this spring but also into the future obviously,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen told reporters on Tuesday. “If we have to make a hard decision, we will. We like Artemi and would like to keep him, and it’s his right to go into free agency. If he chooses to do so, we’ll be knocking on his door July 1, but we’re going to go about our business here and try to win hockey games and make the playoffs and go as deep as possible this spring, too.”

Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello is in the process of trying to lock-up captain Anders Lee to a multi-year contract extension, but continues to explore additional options to improve his hockey club, with Panarin being among the players he covets, according to a source close to the organization.

Panarin, 27, comes with a $6 million salary cap hit, but he could see his salary hover around the $10 million mark on a new deal this off-season.

It’s unclear what the Blue Jackets are looking for, as part of a deal, but they would most certainly want a first-round draft pick, an NHL-ready or NHL-proven young forward, a top prospect and possibly another asset as part of a deal.

Whether the Islanders or another club pays that price is another story.

The Islanders currently sit first in the Metropolitan Division with a 29-15-5 record through 49 games.