Should the Rangers prioritize Erik Karlsson over Artemi Panarin?

With the Rangers grabbing the 2nd overall pick and one of Kaapo Kakko or Jack Hughes, the need to add an elite forward talent has all of a sudden been filled. You can never have enough scoring talent, but the Rangers are now all of a sudden swimming in top-six talent and bottom-six depth forwards. If you add Artemi Panarin to the mix, the Rangers have a luxury of more than six top-six forwards.

However even with those additions, the Rangers still seem to be lacking that well-rounded roster that separates the contenders from the pretenders. The forwards are solid and should only get better. But it’s the blue line that is the weakest link. The Rangers have already made the league aware they will address this issue by spending two draft picks to get Adam Fox a full year early. But there’s more work that needs to be done.

Even with Fox, Tony DeAngelo, Brady Skjei, and potentially Libor Hajek holding the fort, the Rangers still lack that elite 1D that can drive a powerplay and even strength offense while also being responsible in his own end. For everything DeAngelo does, he’s lacking in his own coverage. For everything that Kevin Shattenkirk does, he may have been the right piece at the wrong time. This also brings us back to the comment made above: You can never have enough talent.

The two big free agents that have been talked about non-stop are Panarin and Erik Karlsson. Any contract would be risky, as with Panarin, but the risk would, at least in theory, be worth it for either of them. But the concern is that the Rangers may not be able to afford both.

With Kakko and Vitali Kravtsov likely having an impact at the NHL level next season, Panarin seems more of a luxury than a need. Karlsson, meanwhile, fills an immediate need. Even with the blue line prospects in the pipe, none are going to turn into what Karlsson is now. Karlsson fills the need of a true 1RD, capable of elite level play in all situations. He basically carried the Ottawa Senators to the Eastern Conference Final in 2016, and still put up 45 points in 53 games with San Jose this year. He also has 13 assists so far these playoffs.

Naturally the concerns with Karlsson — his health, age, and ability to keep up this play and be worth his contract — are legitimate concerns. They are the same with Panarin as well. The difference is that the top blue line prospects not named Adam Fox for the Rangers are still at least another year or two away, possibly more.

All this is dependent on how fast the Rangers want to accelerate their rebuild. If they want to truly contend as soon as next season, then Karlsson is the fastest way to shore up the blue line. He’s the only one capable of dragging Marc Staal and his likely unmovable deal around and make him look decent at even strength. It may be another big contract, but part of this acceleration plan likely (must?) include dumping a bad contract in Brendan Smith or a big contract in Shattenkirk.

In a Panarin or Karlsson debate, the answer may be need versus luxury. If it’s one or the other, who would you prefer?

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  • Karlsson has the 2nd worst +\- among D on his team in the playoffs, was near the bottom in the regular season as well.

    Over his entire career his GF% at evens is under 50. He’s a power play specialist, can’t PK to save his life and should only be on the ice the last 10 minutes of a game if you’re down 2, 5 minutes if you’re down one. He’s a better version of Shattenkirk, but with a recent injury history.

    I wouldn’t touch him with a 10 foot pole.

    Panarin? I’d take a gamble as long as the contract is structured to lose him in the expansion draft.

    • Do you really think Panarin will commit to the Rangers on the possibility he can go to an expansion team? C’mon man!

      • You hang a big enough of a bonus in front of him, then go to a zero income tax state when his income starts to climb?

        In a heartbeat.

      • To further elaborate, even if he would come for the league minimum next year on a 5 year deal I’m not sure I want him on the team at this stage of development.

        Even if he kills it and is 40 points above his replacement, you’re still looking at a team on the outside looking in for the 8th seed.

        So you’re giving up a shot at a top 10 player when upgrading both top 6 or 1st pair quickly really matters. In the meantime, you’re blocking avenues of development for the kids. I’d be more concerned about this if the Rangers get Hughes, as he’s gonna have to start out on the wing.

    • Absolutely…This can’t be stressed enough. I have heard they are not interested in him anyway

  • Swimming in top 6 talent with 2 guys who never played in the NHL? Promising yes, but neither is top 6 yet.

    Karlsson may cost more than he is worth. Grab Panarin and trade for Trouba.

  • Karlsson is a joke, and should be avoided like he had the plague.

    He is weaker on defense than Shatty, now that is saying something. He is undersized, weak, frail, injury prone, and most importantly is going to get worse with age. If I’m going after a solid right D, give me Trouba, he is a stud. The cost would be nearly the same, the production nearly the same, but he is solid on defense, and has some snarl. Erik avoids contact at all costs, do we really need more of those guys who won’t, and or can’t protect our goalie? Sorry to offend anyone, but this guy is a wimp!!!!!!!!

  • I am a neither vote based on a hard pass on Karlsson and a pass on Panarin.

    Karlsson is simply not worth the cost. I’d much rather that they either try for a younger player like Trouba or see what they already have in the pipeline. I am in no hurry to ‘accelerate the rebuild’.

    On Panarin my thinking is: Kakko and Kravtsov are only 18 and 19 respectively and have never played in the NHL or North American hockey. They may be ready to step in or may not quite be ready. In any event, it is a leap to think that either is going to knock out 25 – 30 goals and be Auston Matthews this coming season. The Rangers also have a whole bunch of other young players on the roster. I’d venture to say that it is going to take this club at least two more seasons to be cup contenders. If they grab Panarin now, not only do they burn his 28 and 29 year old years while being not quite ready for prime time, he is also going to command John Tavares like numbers for about 7 years. I would rather that the team not be saddled with a contract like that at this time. So even though he is obviously a talented player, I’d pass on him too.

    I’d stay the course.

    • Peter

      I couldn’t agree with you any more than what your post said. If I want to spend money on a player, and commit to for a long term, Trouba is the man.

      We still have no idea what we will get from this coming draft, but we may also get lucky and land another scoring winger who can play for us for years. I’m concerned that pressure on management to do something, again for instant gratification, and making us poorer down the road, may come into play. We don’t need any marquee player now, we will have plenty in two, or three years…………….

      Another thought, we sign Karlsson, and Breadman, this would put us in a cap hell three years from now when all the kids will want raises. Never forget Staal, Girardi, Richards, Redden, and the list goes on who got big money, and term, and sucked up the place!!!!!!!!

    • There comes a time in a rebuild cycle that you need to support your young players so that they can grow. Playing them more meaningful minutes is the way to go. Another issue is taking some pressure of them so that they can learn and not feel the weight of the whole team on their shoulders. That is why you add a top scorer and defenseman. These players know the ropes and are paid well to carry the team. This will allow the youth to grow and learn while the pressure to win is on the experienced stars. You just do not go out and buy anyone, but buy someone (or trade for someone) that still has good years left, but has been in the league 3+ years with success.

      Karlsson, Trouba, Panarin and others might fit the bill. All are talented and young enough to give us 4 or more good years. I think either this year or next year is the time to add a talented star. Not necessarily to win the Cup next year, but to allow guys like Chytil, Andersson and others to blossom without stress. I am not pandering for any individual, but I do think adding a star helps the growth of the remaining young players.

      • The problem is that you’re not going to get any top tier FA without offering years as well as dollars. That leaves us in cap hell as the young players come into their prime and we need to replace the “stars” as they age out.

    • If I had any choice of any available player, I would go for Panarin, as much as I love Trouba.

      The simple reason is that Panarin is elite and acts like a center playing the wing, due to his possession and skill with the puck. He drives play and takes pressure off the back end.

      If I had the choice of Panarin with the same D we have now or Trouba with the same forwards (including the young forwards coming in), I would take the former, in a second.

  • Karlsson makes the team better immediately, but for how long?

    if I have to choose 1 over the other – I would take the bread and move other forwards to get blue liners.

    we need to build for further out then the next 1-2 years too. EK will get injured more and more, Pass.

    • No Karlsson the Rangers are starting a new era. The Kaako, Fox, Chytil, Howden and young Ruskie era. They will need all the capspace they have to sign these kids.

  • haven’t we seen this adding a 1D, pp QB, first pass script before? I feel like ive seen this movie already.
    I think the last one was titled “Shattenkirk, a boy coming home”. But there was one before that movie. Maybe it was a prequel called “Yandle, survived the desert”. But there were even earlier films… but I just can’t remember their names.
    Can someone help me with the titles of these earlier Ranger scripts?

    • Richards interviews the Rangers, Redded to the rescue, Lindros lands in our lap and chokes his chicken, Shatty soiled his pants, and the list goes on. Your spot on may man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • There’s only six spots on the defense… we have quite a few potentially good prospects, and our PP guys going forward Fox and ADA. Karlsson of 5 years ago… no brainer, probably …. now NO!

  • imo – shattenkirk must be moved. there are too many LD prospects that DO NOT play both sides. There aren’t nearly enough prospect wingers. There are far too many centers, centers moved to the wing to make room.
    some are good problems. some are problems made with quantity solving decisions that has left a glut or a lack there of.
    Signing Pararin is a 12 million dollar bet. But you could spend 14 million on both Duchene and Dzingel add 130 pts to the offense and not put all your eggs into one basket.
    You could sign Karlsson to a very cap friendly deal, AFTER moving Shattenkirk. but you just traded and then signed the exact same problem. it just doesn’t make sense.
    Perhaps sign a 3rd pair vet on the cheap to ride EVALUATION PERIOD Season 2 to the end of 2019-2020 final episode.

    Calling Kakko or Kravstov top 6 forwards is presumptuous. Perhaps we could let them play through the training camp before we bust out our jump to conclusion mats. With DQ and his rules for playing nightly might make some of these rookies “scratch-able”. Same applies to Fox.

  • Ok Dave, clearly you’ve gotten to the point where you have nothing overly intelligent to write about. 😉 We forgive you, after all it’s been a long time since our season ended and the draft can’t come soon enough. The answer is NEITHER and an especially big NO to Karlsson for the reasons many of my compatriots have already listed.

  • GB scores 1-1 and their fans are dancing in the streets….Is it the Coach or Drury why this USA team is playing like dreck?

  • “Even with the blue line prospects in the pipe, none are going to turn into what Karlsson is now.”

    Dave, with all due respect. How can you know this to be true? A Karlsson signing would be just a continuation of the wrong things that the Rangers have done over the years. Why is it so important to compete this year. Speeding up the rebuild does not necessarily mean competing this year, but rather sooner than later.

    I hope and believe that Gorton understands this better than you. Karlsson will be a train wreck of a contract and, quite possibly, derail the rebuild and contention for the Cup over the long haul.


    • Agreed … and really, what is Karlsson NOW? A PP specialist that has lost his scoring touch (2 years in a row) and whose defense is questionable. We have two young kids on the right side that can approximate Karlsson and at 10% the cost … and who until proven otherwise seem healthy and injury free enough to play 80 games. Besides, NOW is all fine and good, but when you’re looking to sign someone for 5-7 years you have to consider what they’ll be down the line. DeAngelo and Fox are all upside, Karlsson’s upside disappeared a few years ago.

    • 2 Cups in 80 years, if we had any more patience we would have a hospital full of customers, lol (see what I did there? Patience? Patients?).

      • Hey dude, jokes aren’t as funny when you have to point them out. For me, it was pretty obvious.

        I didn’t realize that you were over 80, so I get the need for promptness. However, I was not referring to patience for the orginization, but rather for the rebuild process which began a little over a year ago.

  • I said this the other day and I’ll say it again. This team is going to take time to mature and to gel as a group. Fox, Chytil, Kravtsov, Kakko or Hughes , Andersson and Howden are all 21 or under. It’s not realistic to think these guys are going to be amazing right out of the gates. They will need time to figure out the NHL, get adjusted to the 82 game schedule plus playoffs, the smaler ice for some of these guys, etc. We’re still a couple years away from really competing.

    I’d take a flyer on Panarin but only if they are planning to move Kreider. From long term salary cap you can’t keep both. I would pass on Karlsson. His injury history is concerning to the point where we should not even be talking about bringing him in. We still have the problem of Staal, Smith and Shatty and 2 years remaining on their deals. And we shuld be looking to move 2 out of those 3 out the door. Fox was a great step in the right direction. If we trade Kreider it really needs to be for a top D man back in return.

    We need to be patient. We have the chance to build an amazing organization for years to come. We can also learn from teams like Toronto and Winnipeg, and not over commit to high priced veterans and then be forced to make tough choices regarding great young talent later when we need the cap space.

    • Your last paragraph is spot on … save the cap space for the prospects that prove themselves “elite” over the course of the next 3-4 years. There will be plenty of time to tinker with the lineup in the next 2 years, signing high priced UFAs with NTC/NMCs that force us into bridge deals or that force us to trade younger promising prospects is not the way to rebuild.

  • If we were talking about the 2021-2022 season, maybe. At this point it’s too early to be signing big fish to long contracts. That’s always a gamble. Work with what they have for another year or two and don’t trade draft picks–especially from the first three rounds. When the team knows what they have and are ready–think about signing some big tick UFAs.

  • I think the Adam Fox acquisition eliminates any thought of Karlsson by the FO. Panarin OTOH.

  • The Rangers don’t NEED either of these guys. What the Rangers need is a first pair defenseman who can really play defense. That isn’t to say that other good players don’t bring useful things to the table. The Rangers are still thin at forward, both top six and bottom six, so Panarin is a good acquisition at the right price. But what is the right price?

    • Panarin is going to seek a John Tavares contract. Seven years at an average annual salary of $11 million. I think that is too much cap space to tie up at this juncture when the Rangers aren’t sure of what they have. Yes, they are thin at forward, but I don’t want them to be thin in cap space in a couple of years

  • We need to improve the defense. We do that by adding talent and subtracting players who are under restrictive contracts whose ability has seen better days. I think we have 2 or 3 good defensive prospects in the pipeline. Let’s clear some space for them to get minutes. Karlsson is indeed an upgrade, but he comes with baggage.

    I believe Gorton understands the challenges ahead. By July 4th weekend we will know what kind of a team we are going to have next year. Trades are difficult, but necessary.

    THere was an interesting article that mentioned the 50 man roster and that we may have difficulty with that number due to the high number of draft picks we have over this and last years’ drafts. Look for Gorton to move some picks to acquire players or lower round picks at the draft.

    Don’t forget Hank also comes off the books in 2 years. That is another $8M available in 2021/22. Time for some big moves.

    • He would be wise to move some of the later picks (after Round 2) for equivalent picks+ next year — either that or draft more Euros that tend to develop overseas and whose rights won’t force us to sign them sooner rather than later.

  • Trade question. If the Rangers could get Trouba for Kreider and 1st or Buchnevich, Pionk (Doe he have perceived value)and a 2nd–what would you do?

    The better questions are–if Trouba is a good idea and available–should rangers A) center a package around Buch or around Kreider and should they be willing to include the Winnipeg’s 1st or is that a deal breaker.

    It would be nice to acquire Trouba–but I am not sure he is more than a real good second pair d-man and if he is worth what it would take. My gut reaction is to keep that 20th overall and leave the 1st round with either Kakko or Hughes at 2 and Seider at 20. Focus on having an strong to elite d-corps by the 2021-2022 season.


    • Not sure Winnipeg can take a contract back…They are up against it…Laine gonna go from $900K to Many millions….Kyle Connor gets a raise and Copp too…and next year they have to pay Morrissey…they prob cant even take back Hayes

      • My thinking is that young forwards of various talent levels are going to become available from clubs like the Jets and Toronto, etc. over the next couple of years as they need to pay their young players. That is a reason that I say the Rangers should wait to pull the trigger on UFA’s this season and focus on obtaining young skilled players thru trades or in a year or two, free agency. Trouba would be a catch, but not for Krieder and Buchnevich. The Rangers need forwards especially wingers.

        • I heard a little bird say Trouba and maybe a bad contract for Lias and Shatt with Shatt retained salary

          • I imagine they mean Perreault and his $4+m a year (for the next 2 years I believe). That would be a deal I could live with since Perrault would be fine on the bottom 6 and getting rid of Shattenkirk would leave us with a great RD (Trouba, DeAngelo and Fox). Pionk as a spare. I’m not inclined to trade Lias, but a bird in hand like Trouba makes that a good deal … especially if you can keep Trouba for at least 4-5 years.

  • An EXTREMELY hard pass on Karlsson, period.
    And I still think we are one or most likely two seasons away from being a contender. So I’d pass on Panarin as well.
    Trouba……………..ONLY if we do not give up too much.
    We still don’t know what we have talent wise. How about doing something novel in Rangerland, let the rebuild continue, Evaluate our young talent to actually see what are needs are. Look at the influx of promising youngsters next year. Let this team grow as a cohesive unit. Let them stick up for each other, see a path forward if they compete and produce without a big name signing getting in their way. Wait until we are really ready to realistically compete, then and only then go for a piece or two to put us over the top. Tavares really helped Toronto didn’t he. Yep he did help, he helped put them in cap hell.
    What an exciting season we are in for. We’ll have our own Crosby/Ovechkin showdowns with newcomers Hughes/Kakko playing ‘right next door’ to one another..
    Please JG, don’t get happy pants. Patience, patience, patience.

  • The simple answer on Karlsson is just no. We just spent 2 years avoiding the big contracts with younger players than him.

    I honestly thought the whole Karlsson thing was just websites producing content. But I forgot about the portion of NYR fans stuck with that old mentality that we must spend the most on every headline player that is about to take a serious downturn in their performance.

    I didn’t take the letter last year about the re-build to mean that we’d purge the organization of all the young, home-grown talent so we could return to the good old days of paying a lot of money for older players on the downturn. In fact, we still have our latest one of those on the team now named Kevin Shattenkirk.

    Panarin: yes
    Karlsson: no, no, no, no,no!

    • No on Karlsson…He is not a team player..This from a very reliable source…..Panarin is interesting and would give us an elite threat every time he steps on the ice…Trade for Trouba….He should clearly be the defensive priority…

  • No Dave. No true blooded Ranger fan wants to see Karlsson on their squad. He’s tainted. One self absorbed fading Swedish superstar on the team is plenty enough thank-you.

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