It looks like Artemi Panarin is heading to Brooklyn, which is a little rough because it’s the Islanders getting a point per game winger and not the Rangers. That said when you separate the Islanders from this scenario, I’m not overly upset about the Rangers losing out on Panarin. And one tweet sums up why:
The rebuild going well… but if Staal is still playing 18+ minutes a game and the center depth is still 3 rookies beneath Zib? Yeah I'm cool with one more year of coveting draft picks + lotto equity before flipping the switch. That's just me, tho.
— HockeyStatMiner (@HockeyStatMiner) July 1, 2019
The right free agent (Panarin) at the wrong time is still the wrong free agent. There are so many other holes in the roster that need addressing, that Panarin’s contract may actually hinder Jeff Gorton’s ability to fix them. Cap flexibility is a must in the cap era, and it is an aspect that many general managers are struggling with. Gorton, once he took full (keyword) control from Glen Sather around the 2016 draft.
Matt Duchene, the only other big name free agent on the market, is likely headed to Nashville on an $8 million per year contract. So the Rangers aren’t going after him. Joe Pavelski looks to be headed to Dallas at $7 million over three years, so that’s another big name, albeit not as big as Duchene, off the market.
With the defensive nightmare, something that cannot be totally fixed at the moment, and the hole(s) at center, giving the kids more time to develop without the pressures of making the playoffs is a good thing. It may not be what we as fans want to hear, especially with all the hype coming out of prospect camp. As good as these kids may be, the ones that will have an impact next season are not centers. They’d need a major step forward from someone already on the roster. As for the defense, well you know the issues there.
It looks like the only free agents that will be available for the Rangers will be the ones that will only get one or two years on affordable contracts. This bodes well for the rebuild, as it ensures the Blueshirts are not committed to the wrong players when they actually need their cap space. Perhaps the right strategy is just avoiding the market altogether.