The Rangers 2 year UFA backup plan
You’ve heard about it. You’ve read about it. You’ve seen it mentioned here at Forever Blueshirts as well as several other hockey-related blogging sites and news media outlets. What is this ubiquity that I am referring to? Well, I am talking about the persistent, omnipresent and prevalent rumors that link current Columbus Blue Jackets superstar Artemi Panarin and your beloved hockey team, the New York Rangers.
Panarin will be the unquestioned most important off-season prize not named Jack Hughes. The 64 million dollar question is, will the talented Russian remain in Ohio’s state capital? Or, will he take his immense talents elsewhere? The answer to this critical query will be known some time on, or just after, July 1st, 2019
Pertaining to the Rangers, if they fail at their assumed dogged attempt to land the brilliant 27-year-old, what should their plan B be? Of course, there are other worthy potential free-agent options out there. Could the Rangers go after Panarin’s Blue Jacket teammate Matt Duchene? How about Buffalo Sabre standout, Jeff Skinner? Perhaps, San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski? While the aforementioned benevolent players are in the midst of wonderful, distinguished NHL careers, none of them would excite the exasperated Garden Faithful like the exciting Panarin could.
Waiting for a Hall
The harsh reality is this: The New York Rangers need for an elite level, still in-his-prime forward is tantamount to the MTA’s need to fix and overhaul the City’s antiquated and crumbling Subway system. Having Panarin choose to not take his talents to Broadway will be a tough pill to swallow for Rangerstown. There is no question about that. However, if Ranger fans can just extend their patience and understanding one more year, there could be an even bigger free-agent prize to reel in and that is the reigning Hart Trophy winner and current New Jersey Devil, Taylor Hall.
Hall’s 2018-19 season has been a forgetful one as injuries have ruined what was looking to be a very promising year for both him and his hockey team. The Devils will face an off-season conundrum regarding Hall that is quite similar to what the New York Islanders and their former captain John Tavares experienced last summer.
Should contract discussions this summer between the two parties end in a stalemate, will they trade their best and most important player? Or, should they hold on to #9, hope the team makes the playoffs, goes on a run and see if Hall and his camp would be more inclined to keep playing his home games in the Garden State?
Logic dictates that Hall would want no part of an extension with the Devils. After all, Hall has spent his entire nine year NHL career with two down-trodden franchises. His former team, the Oilers, are in a perpetual state of chaos and a continuous free-fall. And the Devils, in the post Marty Brodeur era, are once again resembling the “Mickey Mouse” franchise from way back in the 1980’s. Hall has appeared in 562 regular season games and just a measly five playoff games. Hall must be chomping at the bit to join an organization committed to winning with the resources to make it happen.
I can hear all of the naysayers now about the prospect of the Rangers acquiring another former New Jersey Devil. The Bobby Holik and Scott Gomez wounds are still quite fresh in the minds of the Ranger fans and understandably so. However, Holik and Gomez combined aren’t even half the player of the 2010 number one overall draft pick. Taylor Hall is fast. exciting, dynamic, gifted and a whole-lot-of-fun to watch. Did I mention that he is still very much in his prime?
As it stands now, per Capfriendly, the Rangers will have in excess of 40 million dollars in salary cap space heading into the 2020-21 season. Obviously, some of the available space will be eaten up by incumbent free-agents to be like Pavel Buchnevich, Brendan Lemieux and Tony DeAngelo. Be that as it may, there would assuredly be ample room under the cap to make the uber-talented Hall an offer he can’t refuse and lasso him out of Newark, through the Lincoln Tunnel, east over the Hudson River to the corner of 8th Avenue and 33rd Street.
First things first and that is the 2019 off-season and the Rangers expected hard run at Artemi Panarin. The Rangers stand to have stiff competition for his services as a plethora of NHL teams will make their respective pitches reminiscent of the Brad Richards frenzy from the summer of 2011.
As one would imagine, general manager Jeff Gorton and his staff need to be fully prepared in case the Blue Jackets’ #9 spurns the Blueshirts lucrative offer. Yes, the Garden Faithful would be extremely disappointed if, when training camp opens in September, Artemi Panarin is not among the players to report to the Tarrytown facility. However, Ranger fans should remove their palms from their foreheads and keep their chins up as there could be a marvelous consolation prize the following off-season in the form of Taylor Hall.