NHL Rumors: Latest Buzz on Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and More

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJune 26, 2019

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 05: Artemi Panarin #9 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on April 05, 2019 in New York City. The Blue Jackets defeated the Rangers 3-2 in the shoot-out to gain a playoff position. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

With free agency officially opening Monday, the NHL rumor mill is going into overdrive as fans speculate on the landing spots for the top stars on the market this offseason.

No player is more prized than Artemi Panarin.

An All-Star with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2017, Panarin took his game to another level following his trade to the Columbus Blue Jackets that summer. The 27-year-old delivered nearly identical production for Columbus in 2017-18 (27 goals, 55 assists) and 2018-19 (28 goals, 59 assists).

The Fourth Period's David Pagnotta reported Monday the New York Islanders "plan on being very active in their push for Panarin."

However, Craig Custance of The Athletic reported the Florida Panthers are leading the race to sign Panarin. Custance spoke to an NHL executive who said he would "be shocked" if the Panthers failed to secure the Russian's services.

According to CapFriendly, the Islanders and Panthers are roughly on equal footing financially. New York is expected to have $20.8 million available, and Florida is right behind at $20.5 million. Of course, the Panthers have the advantage of no state income tax in Florida. They could offer the same contract terms to Panarin as the Islanders but effectively present the better deal.

The Athletic's Rick Carpiniello reported Panarin will meet with the New York Rangers this week.

Like the Islanders, the Rangers could give him the opportunity to play in one of the world's biggest media markets. New team president John Davidson already has a relationship with Panarin as well from their time together in Columbus.

Carpiniello echoed Custance, though, tweeting "it remains possible, if not probable, Panarin and [Sergei] Bobrovsky sign" with the Panthers.

Blue Jackets fans have already resigned themselves to losing Panarin and Bobrovsky. Re-signing Matt Duchene isn't looking likely, either.

The Hockey News' Matt Larkin wrote a move to the Nashville Predators makes sense for a variety of reasons: "He brings speed, scoring and even a well-documented love of all things country music. The city couldn't be a better fit for team and player on a hockey and personal level."

Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reported on ESPN 102.5 The Game in Nashville that Duchene will formally meet with Predators representatives ahead of Monday.

The Predators had the third-most points in the Western Conference (100), while the Blue Jackets are likely heading for a period of transition assuming Panarin and Bobrovsky sign elsewhere. Much like the Panthers, the Preds also benefit from the particulars of their local government.

Aaron Portzline @Aportzline

Also to consider re: #CBJ, #Preds and Matt Duchene … There are no state/city income taxes in Tennessee, so Preds could sign Duchene to a deal worth $9M and he’d keep more income ($5,705,012) than he would at $10M from Columbus ($5,587,844). Numbers courtesy of @CapFriendly

Between his time with the Blue Jackets and Ottawa Senators, Duchene finished with 31 goals this past season. He would make an immediate impact for Nashville, which averaged 2.88 goals per game—19th in the NHL.

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Saturday they traded Patrick Marleau to the Carolina Panthers, shedding Marleau's $6.25 million cap hit in the process.

Everybody could see the logic behind the move, with Jake Gardiner an unrestricted free agent and Mitch Marner a restricted free agent. Retaining both players will still be difficult since Toronto only has $13.6 million available.

LeBrun reported one NHL agent believes Marner could get a six-year deal averaging $10 million annually:

"It's a bit more than the Leafs probably want to go, less than what the Marner camp probably wants, but still pays him more than the Hart Trophy winner in Nikita Kucherov ($9.5 million) and also term-wise gets him off the same cycle as Auston Matthews' five-year deal which is a good thing for Toronto. The Leafs no doubt would rather go seven or eight years with Marner, but again, this is about compromise."

Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas told reporters the team doesn't intend to automatically match any offer sheet Marner might receive from another team.

LeBrun speculated Marner will stay in Toronto, having reported conversations between the two sides "picked up over the last 24 hours."

Should the Leafs let Marner walk, it would defeat the purpose of trading Marleau and losing a 2020 conditional first-round pick in the process.