What it means that the Columbus Blue Jackets have lost so many star players

It was delivered in a backhanded way, but was still a compliment.

Buried within a controversial interview released last week on YouTube, former Blue Jackets star Artemi Panarin gave Columbus a verbal stick tap of sorts while issuing a shocking line of criticism directed at Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I lived in Columbus, which isn’t even in the top 10 American cities, but look at the pictures and you will see how nice it looks,” said Panarin, whose words were translated by journalist Slava Malamud. “Everything is clean, safe, everyone is calm. It’s great. American cities are developing thanks to local taxes which stay in the state.”

The Blue Jackets are developing too, but Panarin — unlike local tax money — isn’t staying in Columbus.

The Russian, who set Jackets records for scoring the past two seasons, instead chose the bright lights, big city of New York by signing a seven-year contract with the Rangers. He reportedly will get $81.5 million, an average of $11.6 million per year, yet could have received significantly more if he had stayed put.

The Blue Jackets made a late push to re-sign him, using an exclusive right to offer an eighth year, but “the Breadman” declined an offer that would have paid him an average of $12 million per season and a total of $96 million.

He skated away from an extra $14.5 million — just to play on Broadway.

How do you compete …

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