Is Artemi Panarin the best UFA signing in Rangers history?

During Tuesdays’s game, Artemi Panarin got himself a goal, which gave him 138 points in his first 100 games as a Ranger. That surpassed Mark Messier’s 137 points in his first 100 games. Panarin has been worth every penny the Rangers gave him two offseasons ago, and then some. And the question has come up. Is Artemi Panarin the best Rangers free agent signing ever?

First – The Exlusions

It’s a tough question to answer, but it gets easier when you eliminate a few people. Messier and Jaromir Jagr, who are numbers 2 and 3 on this list, were both acquired via trade. A lot of the best players in Rangers history were drafted too. Those include Brian Leetch, Brad Park, and Henrik Lundqvist.

We get into murky waters when we talk Original Six free agency. Technically guys like Rod Gilbert and Jean Ratelle were signed as free agents. However that was the only way to get rookies at that time. The NHL Amateur Draft was first implemented in 1963. I believe that should be the first date we use as the modern free agency era.

Naturally the landscape has changed tremendously since that first draft. However using that as our start date helps level the playing field. Every NHL player prior was recruited via free agency, thus it did not set anyone apart. After 1963, players were drafted and rights held by teams for a predetermined period of time.

Apologies to Gilbert, Ratelle, and Andy Bathgate, but they are excluded here.

So Who’s Left?

At first I was going to go through every single free agent signing in Rangers history. That was going to take a while. Instead I went through the Rangers record books. While Panarin is not in the record books, he likely will be by the time that contract is up. Especially if he keeps up this 1.38 PPG pace he’s on.

That leaves a few players:

  • Adam Graves – restricted free agent signing in 1991
  • Walt Tkaczuk – signed as free agent in 1963
  • Marian Gaborik – signed as free agent in 2009
  • Joe Sakic – restricted free agent signing in 1997

I’m sure everyone here is twitching over Joe Sakic, so let’s just scratch him off the list.

Gaborik was a much better signing than he gets credit for in New York. He only spent four years with the Rangers, all of it with John Tortorella. Torts and Gaborik hated each other, as Tortorella wanted a two-way game, which included much more defensive zone play. That’s great in theory, but didn’t play to Gaborik’s strengths. Gaborik wound up with a line of 114-115-229 in 255 games with the Rangers. That included a pair of 40+ goal seasons. He was one of the best pure shooters the Rangers ever had. It’s unfortunate it never worked out.

Tkaczuk is up there in the Rangers record books. He’s also a career Ranger, something no one on this list has. In 945 games over 14 seasons, Tkaczuk put up 227 goals and 451 assists. His 678 points is 6th in Rangers history. and 451 assists 5th. He has a great Rangers history. But does he compare to the impact Graves or Panarin had on this team? Doesn’t look like it.

Graves or Panarin?

Panarin’s impact was immediate. If not for him, the Rangers aren’t getting into that awkward play-in round of the playoffs last year. He single handedly carried the team and was snubbed a Hart Trophy. He was a finalist, losing to Leon Draisaitl and finishing behind Nathan MacKinnon. But make no mistake, without Panarin the Rangers are awful that year.

Panarin is again putting up huge numbers in this shortened season, with 13-30-43 in 31 games. He’s the true game breaker the Rangers have needed in the lineup for so many years. They tried with Gaborik ad Rick Nash, but they found it in Panarin. He’s easily the Rangers MVP last season and this season.

Graves’ impact on the ice likely doesn’t compare to Panarin’s. Over 10 seasons and 772 games in New York, Graves put up 280 goals (3rd in Rangers history) and 227 assists for 507 points (10th). He also set a Rangers record for goals in a season with 52 in 1993-1994. That record held for 12 years until Jaromir Jagr broke it in 2005-2006.

But Graves’ impact off the ice is everlasting. It’s almost impossible to quantify what he did for the team and community off the ice during his playing days. It’s even harder to quantify what he does today. But he is easily one of the most beloved Rangers of all time. The reaction when Brian Leetch announced his jersey retirement still gives goosebumps.

Graves is also the only player on this list with his number in the rafters.

How do you compare the two? I don’t think you can. When it comes to on-ice impact, Panarin is the clear pick. But how can you ignore what Graves did off the ice? There’s a reason why he got the reaction he did. Artemi Panarin may be the best signing in Rangers history on the ice. But is it wrong to say that when you look at the whole picture, Graves is tied? Or is it just sentimental?

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  • I would anticipate as much, Panarin is the best FA signing ever — but it’s only been 100 games and his impact has a ways to go before it can compete with Graves … and the shame of it all is that now, in his absolute prime, he can’t get a FULL season under his belt … ah the records he might have set.

    On a side note, Walt Tkaczuk was my FAVORITE player growing up. I wanted to emulate his style of two way play — his indomitable spirit, will, strength and toughness — He was a special breed, the exemplar of a 200 foot 2-way Center. It was a sad day when his eye injury cut his career short, but at least that allowed him to be a Ranger for life.

    • tanto, Tkaczuk was my favorite Ranger at that time as well. He never took a shift off and was the ultimate team player. Had there been a Steven McDonald Extra Effort award back then, WT would have garnish quite a few votes.

          • Rod was my man.

            I had a few drinks with him in Binghamton when he was coaching New Haven. He was walking out and I said hi Rod and he stopped and talked and we went back in and had a few.

            Great Guy – got absolutely screwed not getting named to the Top 100 All-time.

            Back to you Jim….:)

  • Panarin without any question. I would also add his smile and love for the game. He is contagious for this locker room. There are quite a few players these days if any. We are very fortunate to have him

    No disrespect for Graves. Phenomenal player and personality. True leader. I recently read the post on another blog which reminded me of original story from years back. How Graves threatened Keane during the game.

    I hope it is ok here to copy from interview with Tony Amonte. If not my apologies. I do not think that there should be any copyrights for this

    Adam Graves whom Keenan would dress down often. “There was a fight in from of the bench and Gravy beats the tar out of him – probably threw 50 punches – throws the guy down. Now he standings in front of the bench – points his finger at Keenan and says ‘You’re f***ing next asshole!’ And Keenan never messed with him again.”

    • Yes, great story! Keenan was a very talented coach, and very talented at being an asshole too. Graves didn’t take crap from anyone.

      • Peter, not so sure about Keenan being a “very talented” coach. According to Amonte. He was the worst coach he ever played for. He also mentioned that Messier was running the team at the time. Not sure if any of that true but I can say that imagine today trading Tony Amonte and Doug Weights for spare parts? I doubt that would fly. However Keenan brought the Cup to NY. As they they say they do not condemn the winners

        Those 2 trades set Rangers back for a real long time. One more the following year of trading Zubov. But that one was likely on Messier

        • So a few things on this. I had a number of debates with a guy named PaulRonty, a relatively non-descript Rangers center of the early 1950s. He was a HUGE Keenan fan, and if you dared call him out for anything, he would defend him 100%. His theory was simple…he won the Cup. Drop the mic and exit.

          But as you astutely point out, there’s more to it than that. If the ends justify the means, yes, he got it done. And he was a brilliant coach. No question. But also had a lot of Billy Martin in him. A tortured genius who couldn’t get along with management and alienated a significant number of players. It’s pretty clear in various interviews that many Rangers were not fans. Leetch was interviewed a few years back and he definitely was not a fan. Graves was not. Olzcyk hated him. And I’m sure many more.

          Keenan to his credit knew what buttons to push. But he spent the entire year trying to undermine his own GM because he was power hungry and wanted to be in charge of everything. He wanted Leetch traded for Chelios. Smith said no. He wanted Amonte out (not Weight….that happened a few months before Keenan came aboard). He wanted Gartner out. On those latter two, Smith caved. And look, I think you have to give Keenan credit on those. Anderson, Noonan and Matteau were nowhere near as good as the players who exited, but they provided grit that the Rangers needed to survive the four rounds that awaited. Especially against the Devils. Let’s not forget MacTavish (Marchant went the other way).

          Did these deals hurt the Rangers long term? Yep. Do they win the Cup without them? I say no.

          The flip side? What Keenan did DURING the playoffs…during the series with Jersey no less, was one of the most disgraceful, self-centered and cowardly act I’ve ever seen take place in sports. He was prepared to sabotage the Rangers hopes all in order to take what he thought would be a more favorable situation in Detroit (he wound up instead in St. Louis). The team was on the verge of imploding. The only reason it all worked out was because of Messier, who was the real leader of the team and the finest captain in any sport ever. He was able to plead with Keenan to get things back on track. Mess is THE reason why the Rangers prevailed despite Keenan’s attempts to blow it all up.

          And what happened after the messy divorce? Keenan’s career unraveled. The Rangers did as well. It was sad really. He should have been a HOF coach. Doubtful that he will make it given the way his career spiraled.

          So, I’d say yes, he was unquestionably talented. But he was his own worst enemy.

          Torts sort of a “Keenan, Jr.” in a way.

          • Yes 3E, but at least Torts has seemed to have been able to learn from his mistakes in handling people. Keenan never did.

        • Also, the Zubov trade came a couple of years after Keenan left. Not sure if Messier was behind that move or not.

        • Also, just to clarify, I didn’t actually debate the former Ranger Ronty, just someone using his name as his handle. 🙂

          • Eddie, you are right. Weights was traded a year earlier for Tikkonen. Zubov with Luc was traded the following year after the Cup. At the time Rangers wanted to be “harder to play against”. But from what I read a while back Messier really did not like Luc. How Zubov got in this deal I have no idea

            Regarding Keenan, Amonte in his interview had a lot of terrible things to say. One of which was that Keenan was the worst coach he has ever played for. Thise were his words.

            I can’t say if Rangers would have won the Cup with Amonte in there. Hard to argue when everyone still remembers who scored 7th game overtime goal against the Devils. But dealing 40 goals scorer surely set us back for years to come. That and then trading Zubov.

        • To clarify: Keenan was tactically brilliant, but an a–hole. A very well-known a–hole. It has been said that he was an emotional meltdown during the Stanley Cup finals in ’94 too. So, brilliant but quite flawed.

  • Sorry, I’m sticking with Igor Ulanov, Wade Redden, and Brian Skrudland as my top 3.

    Graves is the only one who comes close to Panarin. The Breadman is the best free agent signing this team has ever made.

  • Panarin and Graves 1a and 1b. Two very different style players who brought very different elements to the Ranger team. Graves leadership qualities on and off the ice were overshadowed by ‘Larger than Life’ Messier, and rightly so. But make no mistake about it Graves was ultra important to the team.

  • Panarin is supremely skilled and if he continues to play at such a high level for a long time with the team, he would be likely to ultimately dethrone Adam Graves. But, because he has been here only a short time in comparison to Graves, I think that the question might be premature.

  • Panarin is great, but needs a stronger supporting cast. The bottom 6 of this team need to become more dangerous so the opposition has to decide where to put their best defenders.

    We also need a stronger PP2 unit because we are burning out Panarin and Zibby. I foresee 1 or 2 strong additions in the off-season that will put us 4 lines deep, making us a Cup contender. LGR

    • In goal differential, Colorado and Vegas are 1-2 in the NHL because they play in a very weak division. Tampa Bay is third at +35 and the Rangers, despite playing in the toughest division are ninth at +24.

      This team does not need more talent. There already is a strong supporting cast for Panarin. This year, the bottom six has actually been quite good. With another year of growth for Kakko, Kravtsov, and Miller — and a new third defense pair, only the coach and bad luck stand between the Rangers and the Cup.

      • I concur Ray … we could use upgrades here and there, but not necessarily more “talent”. We could use an upgraded coach that knows how to coach talent.

        • This team is not winning with the likes of Rooney and Howden or without a big step up by Kakko and LaFren. Not everyone can be Toronto, but we need more depth to compete at the top. Unsure if DQ is the right coach for the next step.

          • I disagree on pretty much all counts. In ES points per 60, Rooney is running about half of what you get from Zib and Strome. And better defense I think. Do you really need more than that from a fourth line center? And a crucial need — which most people seem to ignore — are reasonably good players who make less that $1M per year. You can’t pay the likes of Panarin unless you have some cheaper players.

            Kakko has already taken a big step up this year. He goes to the net, to the boards, and makes everyone around him better. In fact, he and Chityl are so good now that the kid line is actually a good line despite the fact that Lafreniere sucks.

            I don’t anticipate that Laf will ever be very good, but the Rangers should get a big step from Kravtsov.

            OK, you are right about Howden – but he is sufficiently good defensively that he does not do too much damage – and frankly there is no actual need to play him now – Gauthier and diGuiseppe are better.

    • I think you mean guys who will stand up for teammates at the time of “infractions”. Sid checking Igor in the crease and Komarov taking his feet out are two of the egregious recent occurrences. There isn’t one team that is in contention for the cup that would allow that to happen. The ocean is very different when the occupants know there are sharks in the water.

  • It isn’t fair to include Tkazcuk. In 1963, the draft was not an integral part of hockey. That first draft involved only 21 players, five of whom went on to play in the NHL, two of whom became all-stars, none particularly memorable.

    Tkazcuk was signed the year he turned 16 to a contract with the junior team the Rangers sponsored. That’s basically how things were handled in those days. No real difference between him and the players you excluded.

    To put things in perspective, the #1 overall in 1965 was Andre Veilleux, who never played professional hockey. [before Lafreniere, the only Ranger #1]

  • Everyone loves Adam Graves. He was never expected to be a top line impact player when signed. The proof is that the Rangers were able to give up Troy Mallette, a grinder type, as compensation. His addition to a line with Messier and Mike Gartner (two hall of fame players) to create something akin to the GAG line (With Graves in the Hadfield role) is what accounts for his 40 and 50 goal seasons. Don’t get me wrong. He was a great and important player for the Rangers and helped them win a cup. But he isn’t even in the ballpark of Pannarin.

  • When analyzing Chityl’s ES numbers, I came upon a list of the top ES performers in points/60 in all-time stats. It didn’t go back very far, basically just current players.

    Artemi Panarin was fourth on the list and the top wing (behind only McDavid, Crosby, Matthews).

    These are career numbers – and his Ranger numbers are even better.

    If he can keep it up, not just best Ranger free agent, best free agent.

    • Sounds like you like Chityl a lot and dislike Laf. Is it driven by current stats or something else?

      • For the record, I have always liked Chityl using the eye test. Prior to the year, he had not lived up to my expectations but my study of his production this year suggests a special player. As it based on less than six hours of ice time, it could easily be a fluke — but since it agrees with the visual, I am optimistic.

        I expected a lot from Lafreniere and he has not delivered so far. Every #1 forward pick this century (Lafreniere is the 16th) has scored over 0.5 points per game except the 18 yr old Jack Hughes and Laf. And roughly half were 18, half 19 (Ovie was 20 but scored 100 points). And the eye test tells the same story. Flashes, but lots of lackluster play. It is also true that some kids excel in juniors because they are big early, but disappoint in the NHL. (Sean Day and Evgeny Grachev come to mind.) I am inclined to believe Laf will be a respectable hockey player, but not a star.

        One caveat though: A really big forward get drafted #1 in 1997 and scored a pitiful 7 points in 55 games at age 18. Went on to 423 goals and 1521 points. —– and still counting.

        So Laf may surprise me.


        One thing I am absolutely certain of though is this. Not every single one of the high pedigree young Rangers will hit their mark and the organization better not force each into a crucial role. The Rangers would have been better last year without Kakko – didn’t matter, they were not in contention. They would have been better this year without Lafreniere – “probably” it didn’t cost them. If it happens again next year, it will.

        • Ray, appreciate your response. My question is whether you see him more as a center or more as a wing? I do not know his numbers since he has played both position.

          I might bi bias but I have not seen him playing good center position. Therefore, what you are seeing his good personal numbers and seeing Laf and Kakko struggling as their own fault and suggesting that his numbers would have been even better if he had played with Artemi (whose numbers would have not been?). I look from the opposite perspective that the kids are not developing because of his weakness of being a center. He is playing center position because there is no other option as management see it. But I want to repeat that if we have a team next year with Strom at 2C and Chityl at 3C with Mika at 1C. we will again struggle to low 40s faceoffs. You cant sustain that.

          • I can’t see that many games but I can make some observations:

            Chityl has 7 goals, 9 assists, has been on the ice for 20 Ranger goals. In less than six hours ice time, those are big numbers. The fact that he has gotten a point on 80% of the goals scored while he is on the ice suggests a player who is really involved – which is what you expect from a center. It is slightly better than the 75% that Zibanejad has – and Mika is clearly a center. The only Ranger forward above Chityl is Panarin at 94%, but he’s in a class by himself.

            The second plus is that assists outnumber goals – again people who shouldn’t be centers often are low in assists.

            And only 13 GA. Centers are critical on defense, so his line must have a center on it.

            Faceoffs are obviously something you want from your center, but I have three caveats. First, they are helpful but not critical. Other things can offset a single weakness. And 39.1 is not that bad really. It just means you lose one face-off in ten that you shouldn’t. I point out that Kuznetsov has a lifetime percentage of 43.6, not much better than Chityl.

            Second, as players get older and stronger, they can improve. Third, face-offs are not just about the center. They are a team exercise. When all of your centers are doing poorly, it suggests there is something else wrong.

            I think Filip will be fine at center. What happened this year was a little strange because he could not take face-offs right away after coming back from injury because he did not have enough strength in his hand.

          • Tell this to Panarin. LOL

            I see Chytil as a wing not a center from the small sample. The fact that Kakko and Laf do not have much to show for as much as blame for Chytil as the credit you are giving him with scoring stats

  • Great topic. First of all, we are dealing with two of my all time favorite players in this discussion—Tkaczuk and Graves.

    For those not old enough to remember him, Tkaczuk (pronounced Cha-Chook as opposed to Keith, Matthew or Brady Tkachuk which are pronounced Cha-chuck I believe. As an aside sometimes Jim Gordon and Bill Chadwick would sometimes call Walt “Tay-Chuck”!), was one of the best two way players in Rangers history. During my very brief stint on the Rangers beat, I got to cover the final season and a half of his career and he was just one of the nicest, most humble and classiest players you’d ever want to interview. Much like Adam Graves in that regard. It was a sad day for all of us when he got hit in the eye with a puck, thus ending his career a few years earlier than perhaps it would have. He was the captain that year and the team reeled for a bit at the tail end of the season without him (this happening a month after Espo retired and two months after Fred Shero was canned….so lots of leadership churn on that Rangers squad). The team stumbled to the finish line, but then regrouped in the playoffs with some surprising playoff series wins over the Kings and Blues before being overwhelmed by the dynastic Islanders.

    And as an aside, I believe our old friend Walt once told me that he picked his handle to honor his favorite player, just as I picked mine for the same reason. So I suspect Walt would have loved to chime in about number 18.

    Graves….what can you say? The ultimate team player. Arguably “Robin” to Messier’s “Batman”.

    Panarin? He’s is on track to have a truly great career. Quite possibly a Hall of Fame career and one that winds up with him being the last Ranger ever to wear #10 as his jersey is raised to the rafters.

    But it’s just too soon to say for sure. As of right now, other than the signing of Reggie Jackson, this could go down as the best FA signing in the history of any NY sports team IF it results in a Cup or two. TBD.

    • Eddie, good post.

      In my childhood I was fortunate enough to meet Vladislav Tretiak and Valeri Kharlamov. Both are not only HOF who never played in NHL but both were the legends, generational players who were many years ahead of the game then.

      I am sure not many people know them except if they had watched Disney movie “Miracle”. Tretiak probably was the most celebrated athlete at the time. His goaltending style have influenced most of European and most specifically Russian goaltenders. I doubt if you ask any of the current Russian goalies they would not marvel about Tretiak

      Valeri Kharlamov. I do not know how to even describe his play. He was fearless, athletic, superb skater and stick handler. Think of Pavel Datsyuk 40 years before Pasha as he is being called. I remember Canada-USSR chalenge cup in 1976 when Canada team with all super stars could not do anything with him and Bobby Clark viciously slashed and broke Kharlamov leg.

      The reason I am telling this old stories is because when I met both of them they displayed the most down to earth behavior, They both were the nicest people the young player could interact with. Kharlamov spent 5 minutes with few people myself including helping us with stick handling. He was a magician but his personality, his smile, his love of the game was something that I have been carrying all my life

      I never met Artemi. But he is the same breed as Vladislav and Valeri. I did watch his documentary and people like Artemi are playing for the love of the game. There are not many players like him around. We should all enjoy having him

      • Wow! What an experience for you. Nothing better than meeting athletes you idolized as a kid and find out they are even BETTER as people than they are as athletes.

        And especially for me, as a very bad goalie who wanted to be good, to meet Tretiak? Wow! Good for you!

        • Yes, that was quite memorable. Those 5 minutes with Kharlamov something I will never forget. Panarin style of play is different from Kharlamov. Like I said only Pasha comes close to Valeri. But personalities are very similar. I bet both would pay to play the game. Both are very private and almost shy but with smiles that lighten the room.

          Different era, different players but both with huge impact on the game and the kids

          • That’s awesome that you met Kharlamov! He is an all-time legend. Tretiak too—where’d you meet em? When Rangers played Red Army?

          • Thrilled to see you all remembering the legends of the game.

            I do not know any player ever as good as Kharlamov. He was just breathtaking in every area of his game. For anyone who are not familiar with him. Find him on YouTube.

            Perk, I was born and raised in Leningrad what is now called St Petersburg, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The professional hockey team there is SKA which 3 of the current Rangers played for. I played for 3 organized hockey trams growing up before in mid teens our family moved to NY. I met Tretiak and Kharlamov playing for Sokol Leningrad in 1978. 2 years before Miracle on Ice which I still remember crying my eyes off watching it in Russia. Pls don’t not hold it against me

          • Very cool story. Certainly wouldn’t hold rooting for USSR against you. I’ve always wanted to visit St. Petersburg, no western city endured the level of suffering they did in WWII.

          • The WW2 and Leningrad is a different story. There is a lot of untold stories unfortunately. Leningrad was never completely blocked. Stalin had his own plans.

            But city is e of the most beautiful n the world. Came back there recently and it was one of my best trips. People are nice. Museums are second to none. Food amazing. And most importantly people know their hockey there. Lol

  • He will be the best Ranger in the teams history.
    Realize that he’s had a rare injury this season as well as the Russia Hoax that kept him out for a stretch. I have been a Blackhawk fan all of my life, but I walked away the day they gave Panarin away for absolutely no reason.

  • One other comment on this…..Panarin is a true star player…something the Rangers have not had other than Lundqvist since Jagr left. I have always maintained that the reason the Rangers failed to win a Cup during the last “phase” if you will was not because of coaching. It was because of bad drafting by Smith at the end of his tenure and Sather at the beginning of his, and also bad timing and bad luck.

    The bad drafting was failing to identify great players. Not easy to do I grant you but to quote Alice Kramden when Ralph said “No one is 100%”, she said “You are….you’re wrong every time!”. From 1998-2006, and then again in 2010, when the Rangers were picking often in the Top 10-15 on a regular basis, they missed out on the likes of Tanguay, Gagne, Scott Gomez (when he was very good, not the version we got!), Havlat, Boynton, Dustin Brown, Seabrook, Parise, Getzlaf, Burns, Kesler, Mike Richards, Corey Perry, Eriksson, Bergeron, Weber, Mike Green, Giroux, Foligno, Fowler, Tarasenko, Kuznetsov, and Pacioretty They went instead with the likes of Malhotra, Lundmark, Blackburn, Jessiman, Montoya, Sanguinetti, and McIlrath. Cherapanov was so tragic and obviously we will never know what he might have been.

    Because of those huge missteps, Sather had no choice. He had to try and build a championship team with a bunch of good but not great players. They lucked out with Lundqvist and if not for that selection they would not have been close to a contender. Then they had no choice but to augment a solid team but unspectacular team and maximize the window they had to win by making trades to attempt to get that star player. Jagr, Gaborik, Nash, MSL, Yandle, Eric Staal.

    The best of them was easily Jagr. But he came too early in the cycle. Imagine the 2005-06 Jagr on the 2011-12, 2013-14 or 2014-15 Rangers. They win the Cup. Imagine Tarasenko on the 2014 or 2015 Rangers? They win the Cuyp. Or imagine Panarin and this mature version of Mika on those teams? They win the Cup. Maybe a couple of Cups.

    That’s why I called then the “No Margin for Error” Rangers. Think back to those teams that made deep runs under Torts and AV. So many of those games were just excruciating waiting and wondering if this team had ANYONE capable of putting them on their back when it mattered most beyond Hank. Sure, it would happen sometimes. But remember pretty much the entire 2012 playoffs? It was Hank and the defense just trying to hang on with not enough offense to count on. The team ran out of a gas. Remember the clinching game in 2014 vs Montreal? Hank had to literally stand on his head. No margin for error. In the Finals that year, Hank just tried to will his team across the finish line but there was no Messier, no Jagr, no Panarin to count on. It pained me to see Gaborik on that Kings squad. He would have fit perfectly in AV’s system. But then again, we wouldn’t have had Brassard so who knows what the team would have been like.

    In 2015, it was bad luck combined with all that. Rangers were the best team in the league. Nash was back to being a beast after his concussions. But then Zuc gets critically injured. Still they rally to somehow beat the Caps. Then the defense is riddled with injuries and they somehow get it to Game 7 when finally they ran out of gas against a Lightning team that at that point had more talent than we did. It wasn’t about not playing James Sheppard or other nonsense like that.

    Imagine the 1994 Rangers if Graves had been struck in the head with a puck, or if Leetch had to play with a broken foot and the rest of defense were all (except one) compromised. They would have gotten swept by the Devils.

    Watching Panarin and Mika these last couple of seasons has been fantastic. But it’s bittersweet because I often think of the what ifs in terms of if only they had been on the team a few years earlier.

    So, the question now is, how good (hopefully great?) are these kids. Are they Callahan, Dubinsky, Kreider, Miller Hayes types? Good but not great? That won’t be enough. Or are enough of them truly future great players that can deliver a Cup so that Igor doesnt have to be letter perfect night after night in order to win? That’s the question. It’s not about whether David Quinn is the right guy any more than it was about AV or Torts. I’m not saying coaches don’t matter because of course they do. But you can’t win a Cup most years without stars.

    Of all the kids I have seen so far, Adam Fox is clearly the guy I predict will become a Rangers legend. Watching him is like watching a young Brian Leetch. He and Igor are the two true untouchables among the young players.

    Oh, and last year at the trade deadline, I wanted to sign on here and just scream. WHY did they re-sign Kreider????? OMG. What a mistake. He is going to go down right along with Kovalev as the biggest tease player in Rangers history. Bouts of greatness coupled with lengthy stretches of invisibility. That contract is not going to age well.

    Well, it’s been awhile since I had a chance to make a long post like that. Had a rare free afternoon and the topic got me going.

    Now, on to the big game tonight….Let’s Go Rangers!!!!

    • I saw a lot of Panarin in Tampa w/Columbus. I was amazed at how he was always where the puck was – always in the mix of things – always made a difference when he was on the ice. And he makes it look easy.

      He is a rarity in that he has “arguably” improved after signing a big $$$ deal.

      Absolutely one of the best all-time free-agent signings IMHO.

    • Holik? You’re kidding right? If we’re going to rank ex-Devils who signed with the Rangers, then I’d go with Bruce Driver, who played an important role on some Rangers playoff teams at least.

  • Probably your best article I’ve read Dave. Nice work. The Breadman might lead the Rangers to a cup, and yes on ice he has been an excellent free agent. But, has a way to go before he is in Graves’ class off ice.

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