If Panarin hits the open market, Rangers shouldn’t hold back

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The number one name on the market this summer without a doubt will be goal-scoring winger Artemi Panarin. Over the course of his three-and-a-half year career, Panarin has solidified himself as an elite forward in the NHL, and you better believe Panarin will ask for the maximum when negotiating a new contract.

But how much is too much? With the rarity of having an everyday goal scorer on your team, the Rangers need to give Panarin whatever — and I mean whatever he wants.

With the NHL salary cap increasing an extra few million dollars before next season, there is no doubt that Panarin will get a contract in the double digits, and the Rangers better be the highest bidder. With the amount of cap space the Rangers should have going into next year, this isn’t the time to play it conservative.

While looking at past Ranger teams, even the team that went to the Cup, you could argue that the reason they didn’t make it over the hump was because they didn’t have a prolific goal scorer. Yes, they had guys like Rick Nash, Marian Gaborik and company, but nobody that can score at will like Panarin. As of this year’s NHL All-Star break, the Russian sniper has played in 306 games – regular season and playoffs – while recording 301 points. That almost a point-per-game, and this season he is averaging over that mark, with 53 points (19G, 34A) in 46 games with the Blue Jackets.

The ball is in Panarin’s court when it comes to negotiating, as his numbers speak for themself. Trying to pinpoint the exact number Panarin will ask for isn’t possible at this point, but comparing his stats with top players in the league can give us a good idea.

Starting with Patrick Kane, whose AAV currently sits at $10.5 million, is a good place to start. In the 2016-17 season, Kane recorded 89 points in 82 games, as Panarin recorded 74 points in 82 games. Kane has Panarin by doubt digits that year, but you must remember Kane has been doing this thing since 2007, and that was Panarin’s second year in the NHL. Following up in the 2017-18 season, Kane recorded 76 points in 82 games, as Panarin got back on top by scoring 82 points in 81 games. With these guys having close statistics over the last two years gives Panarin’s team a good idea on where they stand. With Patrick Kane getting $10.5 million AAV years ago when the salary cap wasn’t as large as it will be for Panarin, I expect the highest-bidder to go north of that $10.5 million mark, and that shouldn’t scare away the Rangers.

Next, we’ll compare Panarin to a former Islander, John Tavares. Arguably in the top-10 players in the NHL, Tavares just signed a brand new contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs for an AAV of $11 million. As stated before, in his first three full seasons in the NHL Panarin has 301 points in 306 games. Over that same time frame, Tavares has skated in 286 games while scoring 274 points. On paper, Panarin produced more than Tavares, and with Tavares getting $11 million in a market that will be close to next year, I expect at the minimum Panarin to ask for that same $11 million.

Leading the pack when it comes to AAV is none other than Connor McDavid. Flat out, McDavid is deserving of that money and is the best player in hockey. However, with the demand being through the roof for Panarin, don’t be shocked if someone offers him a similar contract. And if that is the case, the Rangers need to be that team.

The Rangers haven’t had a guy of Panarin’s caliber in a long time. Panarin, who will turn 28 at the beginning of next season, would give the Rangers the scorer they never had.

The Blueshirts can’t back away from the challenge of a bidding war. It is already stated that multiple teams plan to go “all out” for the Russian winger, who has openly stated his curiosity with playing in New York in the past.

No number is too high for Panarin. The timing is perfect, the big contracts have been dealt away and the Rangers have a bunch of young guys to look up to Panarin and play with a superstar. It would be truly upsetting if the Rangers back away at the risk of spending too much money, especially because Jeff Gorton won’t have the opportunity to sign someone like Panarin for a very long time.

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