Rangers free agency outlook: Artemi Panarin or bust?

At this point in time for the John Davidson, Jeff Gorton, and the New York Rangers, there are two key non-draft activities for the offseason. The first is addressing the blue line, something that if I cover again here, someone is going to yell at me. The second is free agency, specifically Artemi Panarin and the long-standing wish of most Ranger fans that he come to New York next season.

It’s clear that Panarin is the most talented player available and appears to be the high priority target for the Rangers. He fills a need as an elite scorer, true top line talent. His presence immediately knocks someone like Pavel Buchnevich to a more comfortable role on the second line and rookies like Kaapo Kakko to the third line, giving the Rangers significant depth.

But what if the Rangers don’t get Panarin? Do they go for Erik Karlsson to shore up the blue line? What about Matt Duchene and the much needed 2C role? All three big name free agents will come with high price tags, but the other two come with non-contract risks. Karlsson has his ankle issues. Duchene hasn’t hit 60 points since 2013-2014.

When it comes to a rebuild, big contracts for the wrong players can completely derail the entire process. Just look at Milan Lucic in Edmonton. Or look no further than Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, and other big contracts that blew up in Glen Sather’s face. A rebuild isn’t just about prospects, it’s about spending the money properly and efficiently. Do Duchene and/or Karlsson fit that mold? It’s tough to say. There’s no denying the skill. But there’s no denying the risk.

The next tier of free agents are in that pricey but probably not worth it range: Jeff Skinner, Jordan Eberle, Kevin Hayes, and Gustav Nyquist. They are all solid top-six players, but at an expected $6+ million on long-term deals, all are even riskier than Karlsson and Duchene. At the very least, avoiding this second tier of free agents is a must for Gorton.

If the Blueshirts miss out on Panarin, perhaps the best bet is trying to find a bargain bin contract, a guy like Benoit Pouliot was for the Rangers way back when. Accelerating the rebuild just to be competitive, but not a true Cup worthy team, is a step backwards. Go big or go home, that applies to free agency this year. Go big for Panarin, or go home and avoid the rest.

"Rangers free agency outlook: Artemi Panarin or bust?", 2 out of 5 based on 22 ratings.
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  1. Not the end of the world if we lose out on Panarin and no need to chase Duchene and hard pass on Karlsson. We have a lot of options in the top 6. Some need to mature but the talent is there. We do need some bottom 6 help. Maybe Joonas Donskoi?He checks a lot of boxes for a reasonable price. I would also be fine with say Brian Boyle. We do need to look at Winnipeg and Toronto and avoid the cap mistakes they have made.

    1. We have a ton of depth up front with all the young emerging forwards. I would rather find help on the back end with a player like Trouba. A (still fairly young) stud defenseman like him can help build a hard working group of Blue Line Blueshirts

  2. “If the Blueshirts miss out on Panarin, perhaps the best bet is trying to find a bargain bin contract, a guy like Benoit Pouliot was for the Rangers way back when.”

    Years ago there was a men’s store who’s slogan was: “Select, don’t settle”. Barnie’s was the name of the store, and they had the right idea, why settle for second best? Bottom line, Andy’s post says it best: “Not the end of the world if we lose out on Panarin and no need to chase Duchene and hard pass on Karlsson”

    I say stay the course, draft well, trade if need be, and save cap space for our own, no need to buy recycled trash!!!!!!! LGR………….

  3. Panarin is a difference maker so I am for him. No on Duchene. Karlsson is NOT coming here…No matter how much Henrik wants it

  4. Jeff Skinner, any other year is a top free agent. While Panarin is the catch, say something like Trouba and Skinner, and I am all in. What we do not want is t make a splash for the sake of making a splash. Pick and choose the right additions at fair prices. While the going rate may be 8 years at $9M per, we should think long and hard before giving out these contract. Also, no one should get a NMC.

    Did you see where AV and Philly just traded for the rights to K.Hayes?

    1. Sal

      Did you hear that Taylor Hall won’t sign an extension at this time with the Devils, and may test free agency at the end of next season!!!!! Good for him, get out of the sewer where he plays now, and go to a real NHL team!!!!

      1. NJ would be stupid not to trade him…He has a trick knee and if you keep him he gets 8 years at 10-11 mil per til he’s 36…hoo rah

      2. Perhaps next year is the right time to jump into the FA pool. When we have a better idea of what the youth movement for the NYRs looks like.

      3. I read that Walt and then I remembered that Hughes works out with Hall in the offseason.

        Thinking out loud here…..Does that change the Devil’s thinking on Hughes vs. Kakko? If Hughes falls to #2 then the NYR best play may be to wait a year and go after Hall after next season as opposed to Panarin now.

        1. Swarty

          I still think that Shero drafts Hughes just the same because he wants a quality two man center combination. I would have to really think about Hall long, and hard due to his injury history. I can see Hall being traded if he doesn’t sign during the next season, and some team will over pay for the guy. This could be a push by Hall to force the hand of Shero to draft Hughes because he likes the kid??? Just a thought on my part…………………………….

        2. If the Devs do not take Hughes, then it would be a complete shocker of the draft.

          Both Hughes and Kakko are NHL ready now, so both will be in their teams’ respective line ups this year.

          Hughes checks all the boxes for the Devs:

          Near generational talent (not quite McDavid or Matthews).
          Great skater.
          Centers win Cups for teams.
          Shero and Hughes’ dad are great friends.
          Hughes is American and is good for the Devs’ marketing and ticket sales.
          Center for Taylor Hall, as you said.

          I would be stunned if he weren’t the pick. Hughes had a very good World tournament based on the playing time and linemates that he had. Kakko got top minutes and top line deployment, because there was nobody else with NHL experience on the team. How the US did not do better, based on their roster vs the other teams, I will never know.

    2. Did you hear what they gave up in the trade? A fifth round pick. Apparently, he didn’t make a big impression in Winnepeg.

      1. Your Hayes hate is embarassing you. Winnipeg didn’t get a 5th round pick for the player, but only for the rights to talk contract with him before other teams. So, basically, a free 5th round pick.

  5. Just read where the Flyers traded a late round pick for the rights to acquire Hayes, good luck there………..This is really good news, let Mint drive Filthdadlephia fans nuts with his Ra Ra of Hayes, LOL!!!!!!!!!

  6. I couldn’t disagree more! It would be foolish for the Rangers to spend big money on this years crop of FAs. The team is just not ready for this type of investment, right now. I would be shocked and appalled if JD allowed Gorton to even call Karlsson. This would be an epic mistake. As far as Panarin…yea, ok, he might be able to help in the future, but we are not winning a Cup this year! The contract he demands may very well be the thing that prevents the rebuild from bringing in the Cup in the future. We must be prudent and patient and allow the growth of the youngsters and then decide how FA can help us toward winning the Cup. I get that Panarin is attractive, but more so, for a team on the cusp right now, not tomorrow! If they do decide to sign him, I will defer to the Rangers mgmt. As for the others you mentioned, I don’t think JD has any intention there. He may kick some tires but I don’t think you will see a signing.

    1. IMO, you need to take positive steps in the standings this year. Maybe a wildcard spot. To do this the kids need to take a step up. All of the new kids (Kraftsov & Kakko) will run into the February fog that hits all young players. They just are not ready for the daily hockey activities for 8 months. You need some strong veterans to push you over the top. Zibby can help, but he needs support. Getting Panarin would give us another strong weapon.

      While we all know the defense will drive the future, putting together more options on offense will surely help the PP. Howden and Chytil (Andersson?) all need to take major steps forward. Buch needs to be there for 80 games as well. I think we gathered picks and now need to see if the talent we have accumulated is ready to bare fruit.

      I think if Strome is our 4th line center, we will be pretty good. If we need him as a 2C, we are in trouble.

      Side Note – If you saw any of the playoff game last night, you saw the intensity of playoff calibre hockey. All through the lineup, both teams gave 100% every shift. We need to learn how to play with this level of intensity.

  7. Artemi Panarin is a fine player. I am afraid that the contract he will demand in order to sign will be very rich.

  8. Tanner Glass is coming back and Jasper Fast are headed towards Philadelphia! Stahl to Phily and to complete the unification of losers trade them Hank.

    1. OK, I’m game. If Tanner Glass would come back it would only make sense to have Cody McLeod on the wing too,

      I throw it out there for consideration: Who could we get who would be a suitable center for such a high powered line? šŸ™‚

  9. Rangers need a pure goal scorer and Panarin is that for sure. He is also very high energy and always around when good things happen on the ice.

    Give him a nice market based offer and if he wants to come here then get it done. We don’t want to be used to jack up the price for the Panthers.

    As a fallback, I also like Duchene – A lot – he too is one of those who makes good things happen on the ice.

    $8 Million sure does not buy what it used to….

    1. The worry about Artemi Panarin is not his skills of course but his cost. I am not totally against getting him but I doubt he will be had for $8 million. I think he is more likely to want around $10 million and that is problematic as far as I am concerned.

      I am not in favor of Duchene. I don’t think his skill level matches what he will cost in salary.

      1. Listen, this is getting out of hand, no-one is worth 11 million, not even 8 in my opinion. Unless it comes with a production guarantee and these contracts do not! Since there is a cap on the team, there should be a cap on annual salaries. If someone signs and doesn’t produce, especially if NTC NMC is attached, the team has no recourse. there is nothing they can do. this isn’t fair to the teams and their fans. I know there is a cap, but my point is, it is too high. Either that or the league needs to go the NFL route and allow teams to cut players who do not produce and lessen the blow of the cap hit so the team can move on. No guaranteed salaries. Why can’t the players earn them on a year to year basis. I’m retired now, but if I didn’t produce what I was getting paid for, my employer would just fire me! That seems fair.

        I’m rambling and I’m sorry, this stuff just twists me the wrong way!

        1. Joe

          Now you can understand why I’m so opposed to any long term deal, and huge term. The players usually lose their desire to hustle, and seem to go thru the motions. Like you, when I worked, and didn’t make our AOP, people were given 90 days to get their numbers to where they should be, or are shown the door. We are old school, and had to prove ourselves year in, and year out!!!!!!!

          1. Exactly Walt! The league needs to stop this nonsense, Teams just can’t help themselves and sway the market to epic proportions. It’s just unsustainable.

        2. If I’m paying big money and term out to a player I want him to be a Ranger — and hopefully a guy like Kakko forces us to do just that. I don’t mind an 8 year deal for $9M+ to a great (elite) 23-24 year old, I do mind though a 7 year deal to a 28 year old.

  10. Panarin will cost plenty, but rather spend the money on Panarin than Karlsson, who has some baggage…………Adding Trouba and Panarin I’m okay with…..Gorton will have to work some cap magic to land both….The problem with Trouba is that Jet management is looking for cap relief, draft picks, prospects and IMAX theatres for Trouba. No way JD gets hosed on Trouba…If the Jets truly want the house and bank for Trouba, then Forget it….and look elsewhere.

      1. I disagree bro. Panarin changes the talent of the entire team, Trouba does not.

        And this coming from a big Trouba fan.

  11. Panarin only if the contract makes sense. You want to play on the big stage in NY, you’re going to have to leave something ($s and a bit of term) on the table — well at least that should be our attitude right now. You want sunshine year round, no state taxes and 1800 fans a night (hyperbole), go down to sunny Florida.

    I’m fine if we pass, I’m fine if the deal is a good one for us … all the other players, pass pass pass … all I’m looking for next year is GROWTH, of the culture, of the young players and of the coaching staff. I’m more interested in subtraction than addition. I think everything points to 2 years from now when all the bad contracts on the books are eliminated, anything that smacks of trying to compete for the Cup before then will likely come back to bite us in the arse.

    1. Tanto

      Coming to NY City, the capital of marketing and advertising, any decent player could make up the difference in pay by doing commercials on TV. Just ask Gretzky where he made his money when he was playing!!!!!!!!!!!!

      1. I know, right? Like Frankie said, if you can make it there I can make it anywhere … I mean if Panarin is here and gets the publicity he deserves, how can he not make a “breadman” commercial?!

    1. I want the Rangers to win the tournament, not just get a participation award.

      I have to assume we are from different generations, Mikey.

  12. Draft question ā€¦ā€¦..If we get Jack Hughes I’ve read where some feel he might need a little minor league time ā€¦..Do we start him there or start in with the big club right away ?

  13. And I seem to find myself (just a little bit ) pulling for the Blues in the finals (something to do with JD ? ā€¦..Maybe ).

    1. To answer your question, if Hughes needs time to get NHL ready, he goes to the AHL, but I think he only needs some muscle mass on his little ass, he is ready otherwise.

      I bet the vast majority of people on this site are pulling for the Blues as well, not for JD, but against Boston in general!!!!!!!!!!!

      1. He’s ready … just a hard summer of strength and conditioning, nothing more is needed … but it’s going to be Kakko because if the Devils pass on him and he turns out to be great then everyone will point a finger at them for screwing the pick up. He’s been the consensus #1 pick for a couple of years now. I’m sure their rationale for any discrepancy in productivity between Kakko and Hughes will be attributed to his boyish looks and body, this kid couldn’t even grow peach fuzz on his face. He’ll get better with age just because his body will mature in time.

      2. There are 3 NHL ready players in the draft: Hughes, Kakko, and Byram (spelling?).

  14. I’m actually a big fan of Boston. The city I mean, it’s a great town, walkable and lots of pubs and beautiful parks, especially along the river. However, I don’t want to see another parade in that town. They’ve had their share, Let’s go Blues!!

    1. Went to school there so yeah, love the little City but between the Bruins, Red Sox and patriots they’ve had a little too much success of late. Let St. Louis win one.

  15. Panarin is on a level the Rangers don’t have and won’t have in the future, no matter how rosy those Ranger colored glasses are.

    He’s not available next year, he’s available this year, so there’s nothing to decide if the Rangers want him, and the Rangers should want him.

    As much as the D needs a top pair D man, I would forgo all of that, keep what they have and play the younger D man, to pull out all the stops for Panarin.

    The Rangers’ defensive issues relate to lack of possession, so it’s not all on the back end. Panarin helps that issue a great deal, and makes the lack of an experienced 2C immaterial, because he possesses the puck like a center.

    It’s not all or nothing, but it would be a big blow if he does not come here. It would be an opportunity missed, for sure. This is the #1, #1A, and #1B offseason priorities after the draft, IMO.

    1. ’94

      Are you saying no-one else in the league is as good as Panarin? Or just that no-one in the league is as good or better than Panarin and will be a UFA in the future?

      1. I am saying that no one is as good that is AVAILABLE, correct in the latter part of what you’re saying. There’s no trade cost, just $$. This is a very rare opportunity to get a near franchise player without trading for that player. In hockey, in general, franchise players re-sign with their teams. Of course there are rare exceptions like Tavares.

        The time for the Rangers to make a move like this is now. They get Panarin and even a little better D man than they have now (hearing Hamonic may be available), along with the players already coming, including Kakko, and they are a playoff team, IMO.

        1. fair enough, I just think the timing is not right. I respectfully disagree with your opinion.

  16. Firm no on Karlsson but good try Dave. Duchene looks like he has reached his pinnacle and is starting his decline. The Breadman did look enticing, as free agents with his caliber don’t become available very often. But then the ping pong balls fell in their favour and everything changed in Ranger Nation.

    1. After getting in the top 2, you think that the Rangers’ luck has turned around, but then the Stars miss out on the conf final, to bring us back down to earth.

      But getting Kakko is worth other disappointments, for sure.

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