Hartnett: Rangers Need To Convince Artemi Panarin To Sign

Big Splash Or Bargain Hunting For Blueshirts

Sean Hartnett
June 27, 2019 - 1:28 pm

The Rangers are ready to accelerate their rebuild into something that more closely resembles a playoff-challenging roster – but they first need to convince Artemi Panarin to pull on a Blueshirt.

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Right now, it appears that the Florida Panthers hold an edge in recruiting Panarin. Should Panarin sign for the expected $11-12 million per season for seven years, the income tax-free haven of Florida is a huge reason to join the Cats. Additionally, the retirement of goaltender Roberto Luongo gives the Panthers more dollars to spend in the pursuit of Panarin and fellow countryman Sergei Bobrovsky.

Another factor is the Panthers’ hiring of Panarin’s former head coach, Joel Quenneville. The three Stanley Cup championships on Quenneville’s résumé combined with the talents of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Evgenii Dadonov, Keith Yandle and co. means that the Cats are already in good position to be a playoff team next season.

Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Artemi Panarin

Add Panarin and Bobrovsky to the mix and the Panthers will push themselves into the conversation among the most talented teams in the Eastern Conference.

Related: Hartnett: Kakko's Arrival Comes At Perfect Time In Rangers' Rebuild

Complicating matters for the Rangers is that the 2019 NHL Draft came and went without a cap-clearing trade. Chris Kreider, Jimmy Vesey and Vladislav Namestnikov remained Blueshirts after draft weekend. The possibility of buying out one of Brendan Smith or Kevin Shattenkirk remains an option.

Shedding salary will allow the Rangers greater flexibility in free agency, though I don’t see the Rangers turning around and handing mega money to free-agent alternatives if they miss out on Panarin. If Panarin doesn’t join the Blueshirts July 1, Kreider could stand to benefit the most as it could restart negotiations.

The Rangers still need to sign restricted free agents: Jacob Trouba, Pavel Buchnevich, Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemieux. These new deals are going to take a significant amount of cap space. Trouba’s extension alone could cost upwards of $7.5 million per year.

I’m sure the Rangers would love to add Wayne Simmonds or reunite with Mats Zuccarello, but I don’t see them handing out long-term contracts to players over the age of 30.

Should Panarin sign elsewhere, Jeff Gorton will search the market for bargain-priced additions on shorter-term deals. So, for Gorton and the Rangers – it’s either going to be a big “Breadman” splash or bargain hunting.

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