Fantasy Impact: The New York Rangers have signed Artemi Panarin to a seven-year contract worth $81.5 million.
The Rangers get: The leading scorer among unrestricted free agents as well as the Blue Jackets’ leading scorer over each of the last two seasons. Panarin has been a top-20 scorer in each of his four seasons in the NHL, his first two with the Blackhawks and the last two with the Blue Jackets. He has reached 70 points in each of those four seasons with a minimum of 27 goals and 43 assists each season. He has also been remarkably durable, having missed only six games in his NHL career. Panarin becomes the face of the franchise that will soon have fellow Russians Igor Shesterkin and Vitali Kravtsov alongside.
(Click any player name below and be taken to his stats, charts, observations and frequent linemates)
Fantasy Players Impacted: This is a brand new team now, and a team that will be a Stanley Cup contender just as soon as prospect goalie Igor Shesterkin (our scouting report on him here) is ready to take over for King Henrik Lundqvist. With Panarin, Jacob Trouba, Kravtsov, Adam Fox (our scouting report here) and of course Kaapo Kakko (our scouting report here), the core of this team is going to be elite in two to four years and is suddenly twice as good as it was last season even now with a bunch of unproven kids. If the Rangers indeed keep their enigmatic Russian Pavel Buchnevich, Panarin could have a very positive impact on his production and consistency. In fact, with so many Russians now coming in, the environment for Buchnevich to thrive has certainly become much more ideal.
Panarin is the first-line left winger and top PP guy. This means that Chris Kreider and Vladislav Namestnikov get knocked down the ladder a notch. So which centerman wins the lottery and gets to play with Panarin? The prize is an additional 20 points on top of his expect numbers. Leading the way is Mika Zibanejad, who led the Rangers in scoring with a career high 74 points last season. But will the Rangers want to spread the offense out? Zibanejad had great chemistry with Kreider, so Coach David Quinn could elect to keep those two together as a 1A/1B line, and put Panarin with a different centerman. That could be Ryan Strome, who loves to dish, or sophomore Filip Chytil, who has tremendous upside but it may be a little early for such expectations. Long shots here would be sophomore Brett Howden, who has been used in more of a checking capacity so far, and yet another Russian in Namestnikov, who can line up at center or on the wing, as well as sophomore Lias Andersson, who could eventually get this job a year or two down the road, but doesn't yet seem ready for it right off the hop. At this point, we would only speculate. My guess would be Zibanejad gets the job to start, with Chytil taking over by mid-season. But it's only a guess, and I would bet exactly zero dollars on that guess. All we know for sure is that whoever gets the sweet job, gets the bonus goals and assists that come with it.
Players this helps, in order:
5. Kravtsov (our scouting report on him here)
Players this hurts, in order:
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