Is an Artemi Panarin trade possible? It's unlikely, but crazier things have happened.
Is an Artemi Panarin trade possible? It's unlikely, but crazier things have happened.

This past summer, the Rangers online presence was lit ablaze by Arthur Staple, suggesting that the Rangers could relieve some of their salary cap concerns with an Artemi Panarin trade. With the cap going up by just $1 million this summer, the Rangers may not be in a dire situation, but they are in a precarious situation. The quickest path to clear cap space is with an Artemi Panarin trade, but it is also the most difficult to sell to the fans and to other teams.

The case against an Artemi Panarin trade

He’s Artemi Panarin. He’s still one of the best wingers in the game. He has produced two 95+ point seasons in his 3+ years with the Rangers, and is on pace to hit 95 points again this season. He was on a 113 point pace in the Covid season. This kind of production doesn’t grow on trees.

Make no mistake, the Rangers would be giving up by far the best player in any Artemi Panarin trade. There is no way around it, and there are few credible arguments against that statement. He’s a player that other teams must respect on the ice, creating room for others, as we saw with Filip Chytil’s overtime winner the other night.

Panarin sees the ice differently, in a way no Ranger since Brian Leetch has. It is nearly impossible to replace his production and vision on the ice, and trading him makes the Rangers offense and powerplay objectively worse.

He’s Artemi Panarin. You don’t trade Artemi Panarin. Especially when the Rangers are in their window to win. There are other ways to free up cap space that arguably make the team better. An Artemi Panarin trade likely isn’t one of them.

Panarin’s no-move clause would be a huge inhibiter too. Assuming he would waive it, then they’d need to find a team that has the pieces to make it worth while, plus the cap space. That’s an exceedingly difficult task.

The case for trading Panarin

Note: I am not in the camp of trading Panarin. This is simply presenting the other side to it.

It’s not hard to make a case for trading Panarin. His cap hit is $11.6 million, and while he’s worth every cent of it on the ice, it makes it difficult to fill out the rest of the roster. The Rangers do have a conundrum this offseason with Alexis Lafreniere, K’Andre Miller, and Filip Chytil (arbitration eligible) all due new contracts. As mentioned above, the salary cap ceiling isn’t going up any time soon, compounding the issue.

Over his last three seasons, Panarin hasn’t driven offense and has wildly outproduced his offensive metrics while being a defensive liability. That’s fine in the general makeup of the team, since players like Panarin don’t grow on trees. But based off this, his age (31), and his cap hit, it makes you wonder if that $11.6 million can be spent on someone that produces, but also drives offense.

Something else to consider is where his points are coming from. Panarin usually produces about 30% of his goals and assists on the powerplay. This season he’s at close to 50% of his offense on the powerplay. This is the same concern we laid out with Patrick Kane. He may not be a “passenger” in the traditional sense, but he’s getting close to being a powerplay specialist.

No one beats Father Time, and it impacts everyone differently. Panarin is obviously still producing, but the question isn’t about today, it’s about the next 2 seasons when the Rangers are still competing with this core. Will he still produce at this level and keep up with his contract? It is better to trade a player one year too early than one year too late. Example: Derick Brassard.

The return in an Artemi Panarin trade, plus the cap savings, could be a huge haul. It could certainly address some of the depth concerns while also returning a player that can fill in for Panarin, with the scoring being more spread out. This, of course, is just a hypothetical.

Worth noting that if the Rangers pay Panarin’s $10 million signing bonus on July 1, he’s easier to trade, since the real dollars are far less than the cap hit.

Panarin isn’t the issue

All of this boils down not to Panarin, but the corner Chris Drury (and James Dolan) backed himself into with some contracts. Barclay Goodrow aside (and Jacob Trouba, whom Drury did not sign), Vincent Trocheck was a nice to have, but not a need to have. Trocheck is a good player and a pain to play against, but it’s been abundantly obvious for a while that Chytil was capable of handling the 2C role.

The cap issue is a result of multiple contracts either aging poorly (Trouba), an unneeded perk (Trocheck), or just a downright bad contract (Goodrow). An Artemi Panarin trade would free up a ton of space, but at what cost? The issue wouldn’t necessarily be addressed either, but that is wholly dependent on the return.

The Rangers have other paths to making the cap work without a huge trade. It’s unnecessary, but an Artemi Panarin trade would open some interesting options. It’s a fun “what if” scenario at this point in time.


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