4 Potential Landing Spots for New York Rangers Winger Artemi Panarin

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured Columnist IVJuly 2, 2022

4 Potential Landing Spots for New York Rangers Winger Artemi Panarin

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    NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 09:  New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) controls the puck during the first period of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the New York Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightning on June 9, 2022 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.  (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Athletic's Arthur Staple created a stir last week in the NHL rumor mill with a report of a possible rift between New York Rangers general manager Chris Drury and winger Artemi Panarin.

    In his June 23 analysis of the Rangers' offseason, Staple reported Drury was "vocally unhappy" over Panarin's performance in the playoffs. The 30-year-old had 16 points during the Blueshirts' 20-game run, but he didn't display the consistency expected of a regular-season scoring leader.

    Staple acknowledged Panarin's hefty contract would be almost impossible to move. He has four seasons remaining with an $11.6 million annual salary-cap hit and a no-movement clause. Nevertheless, he speculated Panarin could ask out.

    Neither Panarin nor Drury have commented, and there's no indication the winger could be available via the trade market. The two may have discussed Panarin's playoff performance during his exit interview, and if there is an issue between them, they will probably try to sort it out.

    The chance that Panarin will hit the trade block is remote. While every team would love to add a forward with his playmaking abilities, his contract would be difficult for most teams to absorb.

    Still, there's always a possibility, no matter how slim, that a rival club could step in with a tempting offer provided Panarin agrees to be moved.

    Here are four clubs that could be landing spots this summer and what it might take to acquire him. Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the comment section below.

Detroit Red Wings

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    NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 24: Tyler Bertuzzi #59 of the Detroit Red Wings is congratulated as he returns to the bench after scoring an empty net goal during the third period against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on April 24, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey. The Red Wings defeated the Devils 3-0. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/NHLI via Getty Images)
    Christopher Pasatieri/NHLI via Getty Images

    The Detroit Red Wings have been rebuilding with young talent since Steve Yzerman took over as general manager in 2019. They've missed the playoffs for the past six seasons, however, and the franchise record is seven, from back in the 1970s. That could prompt Yzerman to speed things up by swinging a deal for a star.

    Detroit must bolster its offense after its 2.8 goals per game ranked 25th. Panarin would improve its production and could help end the long playoff drought.

    It's probably a stretch to imagine that the Red Wings GM would stray from his path to acquire an expensive player such as Panarin. And we don't know if Detroit would even be on Panarin's list of acceptable destinations.

    Still, the Red Wings have two things necessary to pull off a Panarin trade: They are carrying lots of salary-cap space and have promising assets.

    Detroit has $35.8 million in cap space with 15 players under contract for 2022-23. That includes core talents in Dylan Larkin, Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond, Tyler Bertuzzi and Alex Nedeljkovic.

    Scott Wheeler of The Athletic ranked the Wings seventh in his analysis of teams' prospect depth. Defensemen Simon Edvinsson and William Wallinder and goaltender Sebastian Cossa are among Detroit's top prospects. And 2018 first-round pick Filip Zadina could also be available, as he might benefit from a change of scenery after struggling to establish himself.

    The Red Wings would also be in need of a first-line left winger after 2022-23 if Bertuzzi tests the unrestricted free-agent market next year. Yzerman could package the 27-year-old with one or two of his quality prospects. The Rangers could insist on the Red Wings' first-round pick (No. 8) in this year's draft since New York traded its pick to the Winnipeg Jets.

Florida Panthers

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    CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 20: Florida Panthers left wing Jonathan Huberdeau (11) fist bumps Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) after a game between the Florida Panthers and the Chicago Blackhawks on February 20, 2022 at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    During the final week of their contracts with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Panarin and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky met with then-Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon. Bobrovsky inked a seven-year deal with the Panthers, but Panarin signed with the Rangers.

    Tallon departed in August 2020 and was replaced by Bill Zito. Nevertheless, Florida could be among the few clubs that Panarin might accept as a trade destination. Several things would have to happen for the Panthers to take on Panarin, not the least being Zito having a willingness to make that move.

    What might tempt him is the status of Jonathan Huberdeau, who is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. If Zito feels the 29-year-old left winger will test the market, perhaps he will explore a trade.

    A deal could be made to send Huberdeau to New york for Panarin. Given the enormous gap between Panarin's $11.6 million average annual value and Huberdeau's $5.9 million, Zito could insist that the Rangers retain half of Panarin's cap hit. Drury, however, could be reluctant to carry $5.8 million in dead cap over the next four years.

    Zito could free up room if he finds a taker for Bobrovsky. On June 14, Sportsnet 590 The Fan's Nick Kypreos reported the 33-year-old was being "shopped hard," noting the club was willing to retain part of his salary to facilitate a trade.

    If Zito can move a healthy portion of Bobrovsky's $10 million annual cap hit, he could acquire Panarin. He could clear another $5.3 million if he finds a trade partner for veteran winger Patric Hornqvist.

    These scenarios are probably too complicated to pull off. Still, if Panarin is willing to waive his no-movement clause to go to Florida, it might be worthwhile for the clubs to have a discussion.

New Jersey Devils

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    TORONTO, ON - MARCH 23:  Jack Hughes #86 and Nico Hischier #13 of the New Jersey Devils skate against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on March 23, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Devils 3-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    The Rangers and New Jersey Devils have only ever traded once. Drury won't send his best winger to a rival, but the Devils could acquire Panarin as part of a three-way trade if he prefers to remain close to New York City.

    Such a move would have to happen after Panarin were traded to another club. Drury might not be keen to get involved in a multiteam swap if he knows Panarin will end up with New Jersey, but there would be nothing he can do once Panarin is gone.

    The Devils need an elite winger to skate alongside centers Nico Hischier or Jack Hughes. They ranked 19th with 3.0 goals per game, while their power play (15.6 percent) finished 28th.

    New Jersey general manager Tom Fitzgerald proved he's capable of making a big, surprising move when he signed defenseman Dougie Hamilton last summer. With $25.3 million in salary-cap space for 2022-23 and 15 players under contract, Fitzgerald can take on Panarin's big contract.

    Fitzgerald has said he's willing to trade his 2022 first-rounder (No. 2) to bring in an impact player. Few players would fit the bill as well as Panarin, though the GM would have to bundle that pick with a couple of quality prospects or young players. If the Rangers retain part of Panarin's salary to ship him to another club, he would be even more affordable for the Devils.

    Three-way trades aren't easy to pull off, especially when they involve a star such as Panarin. It's probably wishful thinking that he could end up with New Jersey this way. Nevertheless, one should not underestimate the ability of a creative general manager to find a way to make things work.

Vegas Golden Knights

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    CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - APRIL 27: Max Pacioretty #67 of the Vegas Golden Knights (middle) celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period at United Center on April 27, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
    Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

    This one is a wild card. The Vegas Golden Knights are already over the $82.5 million salary cap for next season. They have 16 players under contract for 2022-23 and must shed salary while filling out their roster.

    The Golden Knights, however, have shown an impressive ability to wheel and deal for noteworthy talent. They acquired Mark Stone in 2018, Max Pacioretty in 2019, Robin Lehner and Alec Martinez in 2020 and Jack Eichel in November.

    Vegas had more cap space to work with when it made those trades, and it also drained its prospect pool with those moves, shipping out young assets such as Nick Suzuki and Peyton Krebs. The Knights also lack a first-round pick in this year's draft, having dealt it to the Buffalo Sabres in the Eichel trade.

    General manager Kelly McCrimmon recently made a move to provide his club with wiggle room for next season. On June 16, he sent winger Evgenii Dadonov to the Montreal Canadiens for the contract of sidelined defenseman Shea Weber. With Weber on long-term injured reserve, Vegas has the flexibility to address needs.

    And the Golden Knights could have a trade chip in Pacioretty. The 33-year-old left winger remains a productive scorer, but he's a year away from unrestricted free agency.

    McCrimmon could offer him in a package for Panarin or deal him to another club to clear his $7 million cap hit to make room for Panarin. The GM would likely insist that New York retain a portion of Panarin's cap hit.

    Going after Panarin is a long shot for the Golden Knights given their cap issues. And they might not be on his list of trade destinations. But their recent history suggests we shouldn't rule out the prospect that they'll pull off another blockbuster deal.

    Stats via NHL.com. Salary info via Cap Friendly.