Would You Rather? NY Rangers Edition
The clock is ticking for moves to be made. With the deadline just a few days away, we expect talks not only with the Rangers to heat up, but with other big names such as Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and Artemi Panarin as well. As has been said what seems like a million times thus far, the expectation is for Hayes, Zuccarello, and McQuaid to be on the move. But what comes after that for the Rangers?
At 3:01 PM on February 25th, the rat race that is the NHL trade deadline will officially be over, and inevitably ending much to look forward to for the remainder of the year. The Rangers, who are currently nine points out, will very likely miss the playoffs; leaving the only thing to root for being losses to help boost their chances in the 2019 NHL Draft lottery. So what else can we, as fans, look forward to?
When the season eventually ends in early April for the Blueshirts, rumblings about potential big things will start to pick up again. The first thing being the draft lottery; something that all Rangers fans will be on their seat for in hopes of landing a top-three pick, which, unfortunately, I feel to be unlikely. After the lottery, fans will “YouTube scout” the various prospects the Rangers may want at the June draft in Vancouver, something this writer thoroughly enjoys. But the big thing Rangers fans should be looking forward to is July 1; a day that the Rangers were not active on in 2018, but plan to be active on this summer.
Word is, the big fish they are looking to hook is superstar Russian winger Artemi Panarin. Panarin, as we all know, is ready to hit UFA on July 1, and will likely fetch a seven-year deal – only Columbus can give him 8 – in the $10.5 – $12 million AAV range. I would be thrilled if the Rangers landed the career point per game winger, in that he would work the top line with newly recognized superstar center Mika Zibanejad.
But what if Jeff Gorton decided to spend this kind of money elsewhere? Let me reiterate that if the Rangers do land Panarin, I would be ecstatic and go out the next day and get his jersey; this is just a mere opinion about what else can possibly be done.
The San Jose Sharks are a heavy cup favorite, and they’re playing excellent hockey right now. They are primed to win with a ton of talent and a lot of money allocated to that talent. One particular talent they traded for last summer that is not “on the books” after this season is Erik Karlsson, aka EK65, aka the best defenseman on the planet. Let me start by saying that I do believe he stays in San Jose and gets a deal there, but for argument’s sake, I am going to say he hits UFA on July 1 along with Artemi Panarin. If the Rangers had the choice between Panarin and Karlsson, I would personally throw the bag of money at Karlsson. Age is a non-factor to both of these players being that they are elite talents, but just to make the point, Panarin will be 28 at the start of the season in October, and Karlsson 29. They will both fetch the max 7-year-deal – unless they stay put in Columbus and San Jose respectively and get eight years – with a similar AAV; somewhere in that $10.5 – $12 million area.
So why Karlsson over Panarin? Simply put; the Rangers back-end is pitiful. In my opinion, Brady Skjei is the only one that has a chance to be on this club when it completes its turnaround over, hopefully, the next two years. Yes, I know they have talented defensive prospects in K’Andre Miller and Nils Lundkvist, but those two are at least two years away. Cale Makar, who is the best defensive prospect in all of hockey, is currently in his sophomore year at UMass, meaning even he stayed for a second year. Another one is Adam Fox; Fox is a top-five, maybe even top-three,
P.S. The thought of landing both of them is nearly impossible. Rangers brass would have to get extremely creative with money moving, and even then they would be trotting out a pretty terrible team.