There was a lot of buzz Artemi Panarin might take his talents to Florida alongside his former teammate Sergei Bobrovsky. Then there was a last-minute, late-night pitch by the Columbus Blue Jackets to keep Panarin where he finished the previous season. Eventually, the final rumblings were the New York Islanders were able to offer the best opportunity in terms of money and destination.
In the end, Panarin goes to the destination many thought he might be most interested to join back at the start of the 2018-19 NHL season. Panarin signed a seven-year deal with the New York Rangers worth $81.5 million over seven years.
The Final Push by the Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets were hoping from the start of the 2018-19 season, through the trade deadline and into the playoffs, that at some point, Panarin would reconsider leaving Columbus.
Speculation was, as the free agency period was set to open, he had not.
Looking for the most money in a destination he felt most comfortable, Panarin wasn’t willing to negotiate throughout the season with the Blue Jackets and the overall consensus seemed to be because he’d already decided he’d be leaving. GM Jarmo Kekalainen wasn’t willing to go down without a fight.
Aaron Portzline of The Athletic wrote:
Amid reports that Panarin is likely to sign Monday with the New York Islanders, the Blue Jackets have put a massive offer on the table with agent Paul Theofanous, believed to be eight years and $96 million, an average annual value of $12 million per season, according to league sources.source – ‘Blue Jackets make a massive, late-night offer in an attempt to keep Artemi Panarin’ – Aaron Portzline – The Athletic – 06/30/2019
Unfortunately, the late-night offer wasn’t enough.
Florida Panthers Exit in Final Hours
The Panthers were also heavily rumored to be a location Panarin was looking to join. In fact, for a long time, the expectation was he’d be going there.
Ultimately, the Panthers decided their priority was a goaltender and instead used most of their money on Sergei Bobrvosky, Panarin’s former teammate in Columbus. Andy Strickland wrote:
Don’t think the Florida Panthers are still eyeing Artemi Panarin. Too much to commit to two players. Got their guy and addressed largest need in Sergei Bobrovsky
Islanders Tried Splash Free Agency
There may not have been a bigger name available in free agency than Panarin. To the credit of the New York Islanders they tried to land it. And, considering they know how it feels to lose a star player, adding Panarin would have felt like an absolute victory.
The Islanders were one of the Cinderella stories last season. No one expected them to do much, but with a team that had just lost John Tavares, they made the playoffs and swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. Adding Panarin would have only increased the chances they’ll be contenders again.
In the End, It Was Always the Rangers
The Rangers were the team everyone thought Panarin might want to go to. They were able to land him for less than he might have gotten in other destinations but he chose location and a big-time city vibe over everything else.
The Rangers now have a much-improved team and should they be able to land a center, could have the makings of an extremely skilled top line.