Artemi Panarin signing has ended the New York Rangers rebuild

Artemi Panarin, Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Rangers (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Artemi Panarin
Artemi Panarin, Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Rangers (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Artemi Panarin /

The New York Rangers finally acquired the critical piece to the rebuilding puzzle by acquiring marquee free agent, Artemi Panarin, and it changes everything.

The New York Rangers reeled in the big fish by signing Artemi Panarin to a seven-year deal worth $81.5 million. Between speculation about Florida, Columbus, and the New York Islanders, there was no certainty to where he would end up by noon on July 1.

All we could do was cross our fingers and hope the roulette ball landed on royal blue. In the 11th hour, Panarin narrowed his decision down to the Rangers and Islanders and rest assured, he left money on the table to play in Manhattan rather than Brooklyn/Nassau. The Rangers opted not to buy anyone out ahead of this pursuit. Instead, they traded Jimmy Vesey to Buffalo in exchange for a third-round pick just minutes before free agency opened.

Some argue that Vesey was worth more value than his return, but I see it this way: you are sacrificing Vesey for the higher cost of acquiring Panarin. Besides, with the landscape of this roster, Vesey didn’t have much of a place anymore. We knew he was getting traded, and it was more just a question of where and when. Jeff Gorton scrambled for the cap dump and knew Buffalo would bite right away, so that was the end of that.

When Rangers management released their letter announcing the rebuild initiation in February 2018, many projected it to take 3-4 years. I think it is over. It was tough to say goodbye to all those players that were crucial parts of memorable cup runs, but this team will be better than any of those, and there are still roster tweaks to be made no less.

Panarin has been a 70+ point scorer for all four years of his NHL career and will finally give the Rangers the elite sniper we have always wanted. I can confidently say this franchise has never had a player like him on its roster. Throw in Mika Zibanejad next to him, an established No. 1 NHL center that just had a 70+ point year, with the scoring touch of Pavel Buchnevich on the other side, and it is going to be one lethal first line.

Lest we forget that just over a week ago, Kaapo Kakko was drafted, the 18-year-old phenom is another franchise changer and should make a significant impact immediately. Vitali Kratsov, last year’s No. 9 overall, and the playmaking college superstar defenseman, Adam Fox, join the encore this season as well. All three of these players legitimate Calder candidates.

Throw Jacob Trouba into this symphony, and this is a completely rebranded and revamped New York Rangers roster. I don’t care what anyone says; there is no reason that this team shouldn’t be able to contend this season. Did we want youth, speed, and skill? We certainly have an abundance of it now.

There are still some decisions to be made with the now likely trading of Chris Kreider before the last season of his contract and the possible buyouts of any of Kevin Shattenkirk, Marc Staal, and most hopefully, Brendan Smith. Once Gorton tends to those matters, he must deal with the headache of negotiating with all of his RFA’s, which include Jacob Trouba, Pavel Buchnevich, Tony DeAngelo, and Brendan Lemieux.

If things move accordingly, then I must say that Gorton has done one hell of a job manning the fort this last year and five months. There have been some rough hockey since then, but there is a lot of entertainment coming our way. Without Panarin, things were still looking bright, but not quite there. With him, I think we can erase the storm cloud above our heads that reads “rebuild,” because this is going to be a young, exciting team.

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Hey, if the St. Louis Blues can go from No. 31 in the NHL to Stanley Cup Champions in six months, anything can happen in this league. There is now reason to believe this team can make a push as much as any team.