Brendan Lemieux

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Rangers land Artemi Panarin with $81.5 million deal

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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.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Trade: Rangers make more cap room, send Vesey to Sabres

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(UPDATE: That cap room has helped the Rangers sign Artemi Panarin.)

The New York Rangers continue to open up space after shipping Jimmy Vesey to the Buffalo Sabres for a third-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.

The Rangers have $20 million in cap space and have to sign Jacob Trouba to a long-term deal after trading for him a couple of weeks ago. The Ranger also have Brendan Lemieux and Pavel Buchnevich.

And New York is one of the teams in the running to try and sigh Artemi Panarin, although the latest appears to have the Bread Man going to Long Island to join the Islanders.

The Sabres actually tried to sign Vesey three years ago and even spent a third-round pick for the rights to talk to him after he announced he wouldn’t sign with the Nashville Predators.

Vesey, the former Hobey Baker winner, has one-year left on a two-year deal paying him $2.275 million per season.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck.

Flyers trade pick to Jets for Kevin Hayes’ rights

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While the hockey world soaks in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final (airing on NBC; stream here), the Philadelphia Flyers are clearly thinking about getting ahead of free agent season.

The Flyers sent their 2019 fifth-round pick to the Winnipeg Jets to secure the negotiating rights for big center Kevin Hayes. Hayes is set to become a UFA on July 1, so the Flyers have a bit less than a month to convince him to sign with them, rather than hitting the open market.

As you can see from this amusingly matter-of-fact comment from Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher.

“By gaining the rights to Kevin at this time, it provides us with an opportunity to negotiate with him prior to July 1 when he is due to become an unrestricted free agent,” said Fletcher.

Y-yes, that’s true, Chuck.

The Flyers’ side makes some sense.

They get that lengthy window to wine and dine the 27-year-old, thus getting time to lay out their plan for how he’d figure into their mix. Theoretically, negotiating with Hayes now, rather than when other teams are bidding off in an auction on July 1, might mean that Philly could save a few bucks on a deal. (That’s, of course, basically impossible to prove … but the argument is there.)

The Flyers are unable to offer Hayes an eight-year deal due to the fact that he was not on their roster at the February trade deadline. That’s the same reason why Erik Karlsson was ineligible to sign a max deal with the San Jose Sharks until after the deadline following the September trade that brought him west from Ottawa.

Naturally, the Flyers would also see this as a chance to make sure that Hayes doesn’t sign with another team, most obviously one that might hurt their chances of returning to the postseason during the 2019-20 campaign.

From the Jets’ perspective, this is a no-brainer, at least when you realize that they aren’t able to keep Hayes around.

Winnipeg receives that fifth-round pick for a player who was set to walk for nothing. The Jets gave up their 2019 first-round pick and Brendan Lemieux to the New York Rangers to land Hayes as a (solid enough) rental, so Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff recoups some of that cost.

(And, hey, it’s one other time where you can’t make a pun about taking the “dayoff.”)

Ultimately, though, this would be a loss for the Flyers if they can’t ink Hayes to a deal … or if they sign Hayes to an ill-advised contract. That remains to be seen, but credit Fletcher with aggressiveness, although the NHL probably would have preferred to see this news break, say, on Tuesday instead.

Oh yeah, and if the Flyers do sign Hayes, they’d be reuniting Hayes with former Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault. Cue “The Circle of Life.”

More: Flyers hire Vigneault.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Rangers’ Lundqvist: Struggles in second half ‘more challenging’

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Henrik Lundqvist liked how he started the season. The 37-year-old New York Rangers goalie wasn’t so pleased with how he played toward the end.

He was 15-12-7 with a 3.19 goals-against average during the first half while earning his fifth All-Star appearance. After that, however, he had just three wins in 17 starts to finish with fewer than 24 wins for the first time in his career.

”It was more challenging than I expected it to be and that’s something I have to learn from obviously,” Lundqvist said Sunday at the team’s practice facility in Greenburgh, New York. ”There were so many games I felt good, but where we are right now, good is not going to be enough. You need to play great to win.”

Lundqvist ended the season with 449 career wins, losing his last six tries at No. 450. His 52 starts were his third-fewest – including the shortened 2012-13 season – and his 3.07 GAA and .907 save-percentage were also the worst of his career.

”I think of how good he was in the beginning of the year and he was an All-Star,” general manager Jeff Gorton said. ”It didn’t go well for our team from the trade deadline on and he’s no different than any player. … The guy is still a great goalie.”

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

There were a lot of ups and downs for the Rangers in the first full season of a makeover that began at the previous year’s trade deadline. They finished 32-36-14 in the first season under coach David Quinn, getting just five wins in their last 21 games (5-10-6) after stars Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes were dealt at this year’s deadline.

New York finished seventh in the eight-team Metropolitan Division, 20 points out of the last wild card in the Eastern Conference.

”We all understood the situation we’re in, but that doesn’t mean we don’t think we couldn’t have had a better season,” Quinn said. ”For the most part, these guys were very coachable, tried to do everything we asked them to do.”

There were some bright spots as Mika Zibanejad had career highs of 30 goals and 44 assists, Chris Kreider (28 goals, 24 assists) tied his career high in goals, and Pavel Buchnevich (21 goals, 17 assists) had a breakout season. Also, Ryan Strome finished with 18 goals and 15 assists in 63 games since being acquired from Edmonton.

”We were consistently hard-working,” Kreider said. ”Everyone took great strides as individuals. Now it’s just building on that and not looking back.”

Gorton was also pleased overall with what he saw from his rebuilding team.

”You saw a team that competed really hard every night,” he said. ”I think that’ll bode well as we go forward.”

Some other things to know as the Rangers head into the offseason:

BETWEEN THE PIPES

While Lundqvist struggled, young backup Alexandar Georgiev took advantage of a boost in playing time. The Bulgarian-born 23-year-old was 14-13-4 with a 2.91 GAA and two shutouts in 32 games. He was 8-4-4 with a 2.58 GAA over 16 starts after the All-Star break and could push Lundqvist for more playing time next season.

Also, Russian goalie Igor Shestyorkin, selected by the Rangers in the fourth round of the 2014 NHL Draft, could join the franchise this summer after finishing his last season with the KHL’s SKA Saint Petersburg. He has gone 71-12-10 with a 1.49 GAA the last three seasons with Saint Petersburg.

THE YOUNGSTERS

Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil, the team’s first-round selections in the 2017 draft showed some flashes as they adjust to the NHL.

Chytil, 19, finished with 11 goals and 12 assists in his first full season while moving from center to left wing, though he had just a goal and three assists in his last 23 games. The 20-year-old Andersson had two goals and four assists in 42 games.

FREE-AGENT FRENZY?

The Rangers could choose to hasten their rebuild with some moves in free agency, with Columbus’ Artemi Panarin and San Jose’s Erik Karlsson possible targets.

New York also has decisions to make with some of their own players, with Buchnevich leading the list of restricted free agents. Brendan Lemieux showed flashes after coming over from Winnipeg in the Hayes deal, and Vinni Lettieri, and defensemen Neal Pionk and Tony DeAngelo are also on the list. Also, Kreider, Vladislav Namestnikov, Jimmy Vesey and Jesper Fast will be unrestricted free agents after next season.

WATCH THE DRAFT BOARD

The Rangers have stockpiled draft picks this year with 10 selections, including three first-rounders for the second straight year. Barring any trades, this will make it three straight years with multiple picks in the first round after four straight years without any.

Unless they win the draft lottery, the Rangers aren’t going to get Jack Hughes. However, other strong centers that could be available include Dylan Cozens, Kirby Dach

Follow Vin Cherwoo at http://www.twitter.com/VinCherwooAP

More AP NHL: http://www.apnews.com/NHL and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Sports

WATCH LIVE: Rangers visit Flyers on NBC

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NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Sunday afternoon’s matchup between the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers. Coverage begins at 12 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Pride will be at stake between the Rangers and Flyers when they meet in the first game on Star Sunday on NBC.

The Flyers were officially eliminated from the playoffs after a tough 5-2 loss on Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Rangers, meanwhile, have been out of contention for a while, missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in 15 years.

“I think the poor start is the reason that we’re in this position,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said after Saturday’s game. “Every year it feels like it’s the same story. We need to figure it out…we know we can make the playoffs and be a dangerous team, but we can believe whatever we want. We just have to go out there and make it happen.”

For New York, stopping the Flyers’ six-game winning streak against them — including their three previous meetings this season — will be top of the order. The Flyers haven’t swept the season series since the 1984-85 season.

Philly put up a valiant effort this season after firing the general manager and head coach they began the season with. The Rangers began the season on a rebuilding foot, having brought in David Quinn while selling off several key pieces at the trade deadline.

Despite where both teams find themselves, there won’t be lacking for motivation.

“You want to win hockey games, especially when you’re playing a division rival,” Quinn said.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 12 P.M. ET – NBC]

WHAT: New York Rangers at Philadelphia Flyers
WHERE: Wells Fargo Center
WHEN: Sunday, March 31, 12 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Rangers-Flyers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

RANGERS

Chris KreiderMika ZibanejadPavel Buchnevich
Vladislav NamestnikovFilip ChytilVinni Lettieri
Jimmy VeseyLias AnderssonRyan Strome
Brendan LemieuxBrett HowdenBoo Nieves

Brady SkjeiKevin Shattenkirk
Marc StaalTony DeAngelo
Brendan SmithNeal Pionk

Starting goalie: Alexandar Georgiev

FLYERS

James van RiemsdykNolan Patrick — Claude Giroux
Oskar LindblomSean CouturierJakub Voracek
Ryan HartmanScott LaughtonTravis Konecny
Michael RafflCorban KnightPhil Varone

Ivan ProvorovTravis Sanheim
Shayne GostisbeherePhilippe Myers
Robert HaggRadko Gudas

Starting goalie: Carter Hart

Kenny Albert (play-by-play), Ed Olczyk (analyst) and Pierre McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa. Liam McHugh will anchor studio coverage alongside Mike Milbury and Keith Jones.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck