It’s not often an NHL team can comfortably say they have two cream-of-the-crop forward talents. For the New York Rangers, Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad are on pace to be franchise staples.
Whether the New York Rangers return to play or not in 2020, this team has solidified something rare in franchise history. They have put together an elite tandem of forwards. The duo of Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad should be headliners in the NHL for at least several years to come.
It’s a New York Rangers tradition to invest a big chunk of change in a marquee talent past his prime, whether through free agency or trade, only to receive mediocre production in return. However, it’s unusual for this franchise to get a name-value player only four years into his career, lining up a prosperous Rangers tenure. General Manager Jeff Gorton managed to do that with both Zibanejad and Panarin.
Maybe Zibanejad wasn’t a juicy name yet in 2016, but still. When was the last time that you could sit back and say that with 12 games left in a season, the Rangers possess both an MVP and Rocket Richard Trophy candidate?
The timing of this hiatus, in regards to this context, is laughably frustrating, though. Panarin, who sits tied for third in the NHL with 95 points, was two away from cracking the Rangers all-time top ten. He was also tracking to become the first Rangers player since Jaromir Jagr in 2005-06 to reach the 100-point plateau.
Zibanejad, who sits at fifth among NHL goal scorers this season, with 41, was two measly goals from cracking the top 10 as well. He was only 12 away from Jagr’s franchise 54 in 2005-06, which he could have reached with the pace he was on as well as the Rangers improved play since the All-Star break.