New York Rangers best free agent signings

News: Wayne Gretzky

The New York Rangers have been around since 1926 boasting some of the greatest names to ever play the game.

When it comes to their long history of free agent signings, these three players rank as the franchise’s very best.

New York Rangers sign Adam Graves

new york rangers
Rangers Mark Messier (11) celebrates with the Stanley Cup after the Rangers defeated Vancouver 3-2 in game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals at Madison Square Garden June 14, 1994. Rangers Win Stanley Cup

When GM Neil Smith signed a young Adam Graves to an RFA offer sheet on September 3, 1991, he couldn’t have known it would go down as possibly the best free agent signing in Rangers’ history.

At the time, when you signed an RFA you could try and work out compensation with the other team. Smith and his counterpart in Edmonton, Glen Sather, were not able to agree on adequate compensation, so the issue had to be decided by an independent arbitrator.

Neil Smith was able to convince the mediator that rugged enforcer and fan-favorite Troy Mallette, was a suitable return for Graves. Much to the chagrin of Sather, Mallette was headed to the Pacific Northwest as Graves was packed his bags for the Big Apple.

Graves went on to become part of the core four (Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, and Mike Richter) that brought a Stanley Cup to New York after 54 years on the night of June 14, 1994. His brilliant career led to him becoming a Blueshirts legend and his #9 is raised to the Garden Rafters.

Even more importantly, he’s still making a difference as an ambassador for the organization and continues to be a charitable force. Truly one of the greatest signings in the franchise’s history.

Graves played 10 seasons with the Blueshirts recording 280 goals and 507 points in 772 games. For his career, he amassed 616 points in 1152 contests split between the Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, and San Jose Sharks.

Wayne Gretzky

News: Wayne Gretzky

The Rangers signed Wayne Gretzky on July 21st, 1996 and he didn’t disappoint during his three season in New York.

In his first year wearing Rangers’ Blue, he scored 25 goals and 97 points in 82 games to lead the Blueshirts in scoring. Matter of fact, he led the team all three years he was on Broadway (90 pts, 62 pts).

Reunited with Mark Messier, the Blueshirts went on a magical playoff run led by the Great One. Gretzky’s hat-trick against Florida was one of the more memorable games during that postseason. Sadly with no Alexei Kovalev and mounting injuries they couldn’t overcome the powerhouse Flyers led by Eric Lindros in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Wayne would finish those playoffs with 10 goals and 10 assists in 15 games. Unfortunately, Messier left the team to sign with the Vancouver Canucks in free agency and the aging Rangers couldn’t make the postseason again during Gretzky’s final two years of his brilliant career.

Gretzky registered 249 points in 234 games with the Rangers mainly playing with journeyman winger Nicklas Sundstrom.

Number 99 holds or shares 61 NHL records. He is the game’s all-time leading goal scorer (894), assist getter (1962), and point producer (2856). Matter of fact, had Gretzky never scored a goal, he’d still be the all-time leader in points by 41, over Jaromir Jagr’s 1921 points.

Artemi Panarin

artemi panarin
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Artemi Panarin is arguably one of the best free agent signings in recent memory. Since joining the Blueshirts after signing a seven-year deal on July 1,2019, he’s led the team in scoring every season.

To date, the 31 year-old has scored (100 goals, 241 assists) 341 points in 268 games. Unfortunately, Panarin hasn’t had the playoff success he would like with seven goals and 20 points in 30 postseason matches.

However, his story is still being written and the Blueshirts’ most dynamic offensive player since Jaromir Jagr could easily move up this list.

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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