Rangers should be bullish on pursuing Panarin

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The Rangers have at least one major move they need to make. Artemi Panarin is a forward with a rumored desire to play in New York. He is also slated to be an unrestricted free agent this summer and there doesn’t appear to be any progress in Columbus.

Latest Reports

Social media was buzzing last week over a “report” that Panarin’s agent had informed the Blue Jackets they would be going to free agency this summer. That was met with some backlash by Blue Jackets GM, Jarmo Kekalainen as he told reporters that he had no intention of trading him.

That so called report was based off the interpretation of some comments Panarin’s agent made that were clarified later.

“Deadline” Has Passed

Those who are following the situation will recall that during the summer, Panarin gave the Blue Jackets a September 13th deadline for a contract extension they could agree on. That date coincided with the start of training camp and has since passed with nothing resolved.

Over the course of the offseason more and more rumors of his desire to play for the Rangers intensified. Long time Jackets beat writer, Aaron Portzline wrote in late August that Panarin had the Rangers as his choice destination.

Rangers Must Go After Panarin Hard

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The Rangers are rebuilding with youth and will likely struggle this season. However, those that believe they have a chance at gaining enough ping pong balls to draft highly touted prospect, Jack Hughes first overall better think again.

A team that still has Henrik Lundqvist, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Shattenkirk, Mika Zibanejad, and Chris Kreider are not going to be the worst team in the NHL. Even if they were, the lottery prevents them from being a lock for the first pick. That’s why the Rangers can’t solely focus on the draft for the rebuild and have to look at trades and free agents that make sense.

The 2019 UFA pool had some big names in it heading into training camp, but already one of those names went off the board when Tyler Seguin re-upped with the Stars. That’s why it is so important for the Rangers to act aggressively on Panarin.

Why Panarin?

Although Panarin has been spotted on the beaches of Tampa playing volleyball with several members of the Lightning, most NHL rumor mills have his heart set for playing with the Rangers. According to a recent article in The Athletic, Jeff Gorton doesn’t want to trade assets for him right now, but that could change if they can talk contract extension and avoid him going to free agency.

In three NHL seasons, the LW has totaled 233 points in just 243 games. Panarin’s current cap hit is $6 million and he will command a significant increase. The Rangers have missed out on Seguin, and they would do very well with Panarin. It is a move that could expedite the rebuild as quickly as this season and send them into top contention if Vitali Kravtsov is every bit as good as he’s shown so far since being drafted in June.

The 26 year old winger from Russia, nicknamed “The Bread Man” because his last name sounds similar to a popular food chain, is just what the Rangers need. Jeff Gorton has stockpiled centers by drafting Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil, and trading for Brett Howden. He also has Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, Ryan Spooner, and Vlad Namestnikov on the roster as well. What the Blueshirts lack is a bonafide threat on the wing.

Zuccarello and Kreider are both explosive at times and play both ends of the ice well but are not on Panarin’s level. Buchnevich has all the promise of being that good, but isn’t there yet. As for Kravtsov, he is at least 1 year away from being able to join the team further stressing why Panarin is needed.

To Trade or Wait for Free Agency

Jeff Gorton needs to make a decision. Does he take the risk and wait until Panarin hits the open market in July? Or does he trade some of the assets mentioned above to land Panarin with the hopes of signing him to an extension based off the rumors he wants to play on Broadway?

Right now, Panarin will probably come at the cheapest price in terms of trade. Should he get to the deadline, contenders will be willing to overpay for his services (see Rick Nash trade last deadline). If a contender is granted the right to negotiate an extension before the trade, the Rangers will certainly miss out on an offensively gifted winger that could solidify their forward lines for the next 5 years.

In the end. that’s why Jeff Gorton gets paid the big bucks to make such decisions.

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