Rangers ready to shift focus on Artemi Panarin

Panarin (Getty Images)

Trouba down, Panarin to go.

The John Davidson and Jeff Gorton era got off to a great start when they landed priority one target, Jacob Trouba Monday night. Now the focus shifts to landing a bonafide offensive superstar up front, Artemi Panarin.

Yesterday, Darren Dreger of TSN said on Sirius XM NHL Radio that the Rangers were aggressively in on Trouba and he felt that Panarin will likely end up on Broadway. Later in the day, Trouba was a Ranger.

So now the Rangers prepare for the NHL Entry draft with one eye on free agency. Panarin is going to cost the Blueshirts a 7 year deal and between $11M and $12.5M per season. It will also likely be a front loaded contract that is lockout proof and come with a limited no move clause.

“There’s a lot of things we’re looking at and want to do, and certainly this is a big one,” Gorton said of acquiring Trouba. “When we’re out there trying to improve our team, we’re looking for players that will fit into what we’re doing, and the age is a big part of it. Obviously they have to be good players. But the age of 25, really coming into his prime, and the different amount of things that Jacob can provide for us, this helps us a lot. It just felt like this was a player that’s going to be with us for a while through it all. That’s the biggest reason why we felt comfortable moving off of No. 20 there.”

Gorton on NHL.com

Based on what Jeff Gorton said above, is Artemi Panarin a fit in what the Rangers are doing? The answer is a resounding yes. As it currently stands the lineup has a star center in Mika Zibanejad and a solid winger in Chris Kreider. The rest of the lineup is filled with young promising prospects and some questions marks.

The 27 year old winger is coming off an 87 point campaign on an average offensive team. He is the type of player the opposition needs to try and shutdown. His addition immediately will take pressure off two promising rookies, Vitali Kravtsov and Kaapo Kakko (or Jack Hughes). These type of offensive stars don’t grow on trees and take time to develop.

Of course, the Rangers have a projected cap space of $19M but once they sign Trouba to the tune of about $8M that will come down to $11M. Let’s not forget that they will need to sign RFA’s Pavel Buchnevich, Anthony DeAngelo, and Brendan Lemieux. At this point there just isn’t enough money to do it all.

What do we know? First off, the Rangers aren’t done improving this team and there are reports that they are shopping Jimmy Vesey and there is a great deal of uncertainty on Chris Kreider. The Rangers are also overloaded on the right side of the defense and that likely spells the end of Kevin Shattenkirk as a Ranger. Two other players Gorton cam move are Vlad Namestnikov and Ryan Strome. If the Rangers can offload these salaries in trades, they should be able to add Panarin and keep all their RFA’s.

The other thing to keep an eye out for is a buyout. On June 15th the window to buyout players opened. Many predicted the Rangers would immediately buy out Brendan Smith and that rightfully didn’t happen. Why create cap space and take a penalty for 3 years if you don’t use it. Now the acquisition of Trouba changes that view.

If the Rangers talk with Panarin on June 23rd, when the window to talk to UFA’s opens, and they buyout Smith or maybe someone else, then you know Jeff Gorton is going all-in on Panarin come July 1st.

Still, there is another looming concern and that is what the cap ceiling will be. Many expected it to jump to $83M but that appears to be in jeopardy. Does that hurt or help the Rangers? My immediate reaction is that it would help the Rangers if they came in lower because it would take some other teams out of the running and force them to look at lesser players on the open market. This could drive down the cost of Panarin by a little as well.

The bottom line is this, if the Rangers have their sights completely focused on Panarin you can expect JD and JG to get their man.

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