Admin note: For the sake of this post, we are using an $83 million cap ceiling for next season. We are also only looking at UFA deals, so the William Nylander contract isn’t a comparable.
Even before the Rangers landed the 2nd overall pick, the “Artemi Panarin to the Rangers” rumors were unstoppable. The 27 year old winger has been a point per game player the last two seasons, and will be the most prolific scorer to hit free agency since Ilya Kovalchuk. Suffice it to say, he’s going to be expensive.
The fit with the Rangers is obvious. They have $20 million in cap space with four RFAs to sign. Now all four (or three, depending on how you view Neal PIonk) of those RFAs are key pieces, and they will need to be retained. The good news is that the only player of that group that warrants a long-term deal and not a cheaper bridge deal is Pavel Buchnevich. After all are signed, the Rangers will probably have around $10 million in cap space.
That leaves $10 million to get Panarin under contract. But the question is always going to be how much and for how long?
The max Panarin can sign for outside of Columbus is seven years, which would cover his age 28-34 seasons. I think it is fair to say that he will get seven years. Once we accept that seven years is more likely than not, and comes with the usual risks, we can look at dollar amount.
Let’s start with the obvious comparable, and that is John Tavares. Tavares got $11 million over 7 years from Toronto last summer with a full no movement clause. Using percentage of the cap ceiling when it was signed, that’s 13.8% of the cap. Tavares is a center though, and centers command more money.
Patrick Kane, a point per game player when he signed his 8 year deal with a $10.5 million cap hit to stay with the Hawks at the age of 27. This is a little different because of when the deal was signed (summer of 2014, effective for the 2015-2016 season). The cap ceiling that year was $71.4 million, which made Kane’s deal 14.7% of the cap. In today’s cap of $83 million, it’s 12.7%. This is on the very high end of comparables.
All things considered, these are really the only two contracts we can use. Teams have recently started locking up their stars, and even their just very good, to long term deals that ensure they don’t hit free agency right away. That has limited the number of players in Panarin’s position.
As much as I want to say that Panarin will come in under Tavares’ number, agents are always looking to be the next “highest paid” player and I’m sure they are looking at Kane’s contract and figuring out how to come in over that. Contracts can be an ego-driven process.
Given all these factors, I think it’s safe to say Panarin will come in at the full 7 years between $10.5 million (12.7% of the cap) and $12 million (14.4% of the cap). The sweet spot is $11 million (13.2% of the cap), and is 100% doable for the Blueshirts. Imagine, for a second, that KZB is your 1A line, with Panarin guiding Filip Chytil and Vitali Kravtsov as your 1B line. That’s a lot of talent that can certainly carry a team with a bad blue line.