Rangers’ Artemi Panarin opens up on Tom Wilson incident; leave of absence; and upcoming season

The New York Rangers closed out another spirited session of practices and scrimmages at training camp today. Several players also spoke, but all eyes and ears were on Artemi Panarin.

He is unquestionably the Blueshirts best offensive weapon and one of the top players in the world. So entering the new season, many view him as the man to lead the team to the playoffs.

Last season, Artemi was forced to take a leave of absence due to a political hit job that caused him to miss two weeks of a shortened season. He was also rag-dolled and taken out for the season by Tom Wilson which sparked some firings and roster changes.

Panarin on leave of absence

When it came to the topic of the unfounded accusations levied against him by his former KHL head coach Andrei Nazarov, he opted to not speak any further to it.

Panarin kept his answers short and wanted to make clear that no one was preventing him from discussing it. He also felt that the motivation “wasn’t about political discourse” on Nazarov’s part, but at the same time he’s no longer going to be outspoken about politics.

This summer, former Rangers GM Jeff Gorton provided some insight into the situation.

“We gave the Breadman his space and time he needed to figure things out,” Gorton said on the Cam and Strick Podcast. “The biggest thing when those things are happening back home – he has family there. We don’t know what’s going on in the world. I’ve been to Russia but you don’t know how mad people get or what they will do so we just gave him his space to work through it.”

The Rangers played a big role in helping Panarin and his family out during that time.

“We have security staff and people in place that had a lot of connections just making calls and making sure everyone is fine,” Gorton revealed about the effort to make sure he felt comfortable that his family was fine. “It was about letting him get through it mentally as far as feeling confident that his family was going to be ok.”

Panarin on Tom Wilson incident

panarin wilson
May 3, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Tom Wilson #43 of the Washington Capitals takes a roughing penalty during the second period against Artemi Panarin #10 of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

When the situation with Tom Wilson was brought, Panarin wanted everyone to know that he did not injure his head when he went down, it was a different part of his body. He even jokingly said, “big hair” while grabbing and showing a lock of his flow.

The gesture the team made (fighting) after the situation makes me want to do everything I can for them,” Panarin explained. “Any player will get emotional. You’re not thinking about if you have a helmet on or not. All you want to do is get out from under him and start fighting back. That’s when I got hurt.”

Panarin won’t have to worry about taking care of that kind of business. New acquisition Ryan Reaves put Tom Wilson and the entire league on notice that there’s a new sheriff in town.

“I’m not here because of Tom Wilson. I’m here because of what players like Tom Wilson brings to his team, and Cal Clutterbuck and (Matt) Martin bring to their team,” Reaves declared. “It doesn’t matter what the player is, what team it is, whether we’re out east or out west. I’m holding everybody accountable. It doesn’t matter what happened last year. It matters what happens this season and everyone is going to be held accountable when they go up against our team.”

Panarin on the changes and upcoming season

Artemi is really excited about the new season. He felt they should’ve made the playoffs last year and believes the changes will get them there.

“We have a good team – well organized. Now the team is even stronger with a new coach,” he explained. “Going forward, there’s just a positive outlook on everything.”

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