Jeff Gorton admits Artemi Panarin was always coming to New York Rangers: “My job was not to screw it up”

rangers vs wild
Feb 14, 2020; Columbus, Ohio, USA; New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) follows the puck in play against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Artemi Panarin is arguably one of the best free agent signings not only in New York but quite possibly the entire league. Since joining the Blueshirts for the 2019-20 season, the 29 year-old has scored (49 goals, 104 assists) 153 points in 111 games.

In a recent interview, former Rangers GM Jeff Gorton admitted that Panarin was always likely to land with the Rangers.

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Jeff Gorton on signing Artemi Panarin

Jeff Marek spoke with Jeff Gorton, who is now an analyst on NHL Network, and wanted to ask about signing Artemi Panarin. In particular, the fact that almost everyone around the league knew that’s where he wanted to be anyway.

“Listen, I think any general manager of the Rangers was probably going to get him, I am not naive enough to not think that,” he said. “My job at the end of the day was not to screw it up. We gave him a lot of money, but he had some other choices so we he had to step a pay him. He wanted to come to New York and we all felt that. My job there was to stay out of the way and get him a contract.”

Gorton also acknowledged that Panarin was one of the best players in the world and that overall it was an easy negotiation.

Recalling Panarin signing on Free Agent Frenzy Day

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Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The day after Panarin signed, I confirmed with a team source the Rangers felt very confident Panarin was theirs heading into July 1. However, things went a little sideways late on the eve of free agent frenzy. That’s when Columbus made a big push, including the 8th year to get him to stay. That was only something the Jackets could offer having his rights. It was also rumored the Isles were going up to $13M. It was a crazy 24 hours before Panarin decided.

All of this was why they weren’t 100% sure where Panarin was going heading into the morning. It wasn’t until just around Noon on July 1st they started to breathe a sigh of relief. The Rangers did have a big chip to play. They wisely front loaded the contract, which was something really only they and a few other rich teams in the league could do. That was how they could compete with Columbus’ term advantage.

Ultimately, Panarin listened to his heart and opted to sign with the team he always wanted to play for.

“I dreamt of playing for the Rangers and my heart has been here,” he said through a translator. “I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, but I am really happy.”

His contract is one of the biggest in the NHL at $11.642 annually, but so far he’s worth every penny. The 29 year-old winger has five years remaining on his deal and should continue to be a top performer for much of it.

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Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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