The rebuild in New York is over as the Rangers have signed Artemi Panarin.
The 27-year-old Panarin was the biggest fish in the NHL free agent pond and while he had his options, he’s decided on a seven-year, $81.5 million deal, per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, to come to New York City.
“He’s only 27 years of age, he’s averaged 80 [points] over the last four seasons he’s played in the NHL, he’s a healthy body,” said Rangers president John Davidson. “We know he wants to be here in New York, specifically with the Rangers. It’s a perfect fit.”
After it became clear at the beginning of the 2018-19 season that he likely wouldn’t sign an extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the speculation about his future didn’t distract him during a memorable season for the franchise. In 79 games Panarin led the team with 28 goals and 87 points. That production continued into the playoffs with 11 points in 10 games.
[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]
General manager Jeff Gorton knows that Henrik Lundqvist only has two years left on his deal and at age 37 the Rangers need to maximize the goaltender’s golden year in New York. Drafting Kaapo Kakko No. 2 overall last month only added to the franchise’s youth movement that already features Lias Andersson, Adam Fox, Vitali Kravsov, and Filip Chytil, among others. Once they sign Jacob Trouba, who was acquired two weeks ago, they’ll be much improved and still have plenty of room to work with to add.
“The idea of a [rebuild] is to get picks and Jeff did a good job,” Davidson said. “Then you go through the draft and you go through the development. As you do this you try your best to find ways to try to make it all happen even quicker and better. It’s all falling into place.”
Panarin’s choices reportedly came down to the Rangers and New York Islanders. There was even a late-night, big money offer on Sunday by the Blue Jackets to convince him to re-sign. The Florida Panthers showed plenty of interest and the rumors of the winger going there with Blue Jackets teammate Sergei Bobrovsky heated up after Panarin fired his agent in February and hired Bobrovsky’s. Only Goalie Bob will be taking his talents to Sunrise.
After signing Panarin, Gorton has just under $8 million in cap space to work with and contract decisions for restricted free agents Trouba, Brendan Lemieux, Pavel Buchnevich, and Anthony DeAngelo.
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.