After the Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Islanders, Florida Panthers and Colorado Avalanche all made huge pitches to try and convince Artemi Panarin to join their squads, it ends up being the New York Rangers who will acquire his services moving forward. The Rangers have agreed to terms on a seven-year, $81.5MM deal with Panarin.
Panarin, 27, was the consensus No. 1 in our Top 50 UFAs this season, and will immediately become the highest-paid winger in the entire NHL. His cap hit is will be more than $1MM higher than Patrick Kane’s $10.5MM from several years ago and well ahead of the recent market set by Nikita Kucherov and Mark Stone at $9.5MM. Part of that is the fact that he actually got to unrestricted free agency, but there is good reason to think he will be able to perform at a high level for quite some time.
In the four years he has played in North America, the originally undrafted Panarin has only gotten better. Setting a career-high with 87 points last season in just 79 games, he proved that he could create offense with any type of linemate and established himself as a legitimate superstar in the NHL. That’s exactly what the Rangers were waiting for and have now had quite the summer. They had already traded for both Adam Fox and Jacob Trouba to improve their blue line, and drafted Kaapo Kakko second overall. Panarin’s contract is extremely expensive, but also puts the Rangers in line to compete for the playoffs as soon as next season.
This is a team that just over a year ago sent a letter to fans explaining that they were going to have to trade some “familiar faces, guys we all care about and respect” but were committed to building a Stanley Cup contending team. In such a short time the team has dealt away Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller, Jimmy Vesey, Rick Nash, Nick Holden, Adam McQuaid, Mats Zuccarello, Neal Pionk, Kevin Hayes and Michael Grabner in order to set themselves up with an almost unmatched prospect pipeline and a great chance of success in the future.
Now, after finishing near the bottom of the league and picking second overall, the rebuild is finished in New York. Panarin’s deal ushers in the next phase that will include competing for the playoffs. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re finished trading though, as Chris Kreider and Vladislav Namestnikov remain just a year away from unrestricted free agency and may not be considered key parts moving forward.