Rangers Sign Artemi Panarin For $81.5M, Boosting Rebuild Process
The Rangers "won the Artemi Panarin Sweepstakes" on the first day of NHL free agency, signing the Russian LW to a seven-year deal worth $81.5M, according to Kevin Allen of USA TODAY. Acquiring Panarin signals that the Rangers' rebuild is "ahead of schedule." This offseason, they traded for D Jacob Trouba and acquired the rights to "NHL-ready prospect" D Adam Fox. In addition, they drafted RW Kaapo Kakko with the second overall pick in June's Draft. Kakko, 18, is "projected to play this season" (USA TODAY, 7/2). THE ATHLETIC's Craig Custance wrote the Rangers' rebuild has "done more than turn the corner -- it just got an injection of pure adrenaline." Custance: "Winning the offseason doesn’t always equal on-ice success, but when you factor in everything the Rangers have done in the past couple months, it’s been almost ridiculous" (THEATHLETIC.com, 7/1). In Toronto, Damien Cox wrote the Rangers, after a "couple of years of regrouping, are clearly back in business" (THESTAR.com, 7/1). ESPN.com's Emily Kaplan wrote the Rangers were "irrelevant for ... all of 17 months" (ESPN.com, 7/1).
BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY: On Long Island, Colin Stephenson notes Panarin reportedly "turned down more money from other teams," but he "long ago made it clear that he wanted to play on a bigger stage, in a bigger city" after spending two years in Columbus (NEWSDAY, 7/2). In N.Y., Brett Cyrgalis noted Panarin "peppered" Rangers President of Hockey Operations John Davidson about the exec's memories playing for the Rangers in MSG during the '70s and '80s (NYPOST.com, 7/1). ESPN's Mike Golic Jr.: "You're already seeing the benefits of new leadership there bringing over a player of this caliber" ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 7/2).
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A SPORT MAKES: The signing of Panarin came less than a day after the Knicks failed to sign Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. James Dolan owns both teams, but WFAN's Boomer Esiason said there is a different perception of Dolan in the NBA and the NHL because of the "front offices of these teams." The Rangers "always seem to get the guy" they target, and acquiring Panarin is "another example of that" ("Boomer & Gio," WFAN, 7/2). ESPN's Neil Everett said, "While Knicks fans are still cussing ownership, Rangers fans (are) praising ownership" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 7/2). ESPN's Trey Wingo: "We finally found a free agent willing to play for James Dolan" ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 7/2).
SHOULD ISLANDERS BE WORRIED? On Long Island, Mark Hermann writes the Islanders also were hoping to land Panarin, and the Rangers signing him represents the "biggest win" in their rivalry with the Isles since the '94 playoffs. It "makes you wonder if the Islanders will be able to attract a big-time free agent" before or after they move to their new arena at Belmont Park, planned for the '21-22 season (NEWSDAY, 7/2).