It has been heavily reported that the New York Rangers are planning on making a significant push this offseason for Artemi Panarin and Erik Karlsson. Karlsson and Panarin are two of the headliners available as unrestricted free agents; both players are perennial all-stars and are consistent candidates for awards. Even though, these players are some of the best in the league, signing them could kill the Rangers long-term plans.
For the past two seasons, the Rangers traded away star players, Ryan McDonagh, JT Miller, Mats Zuccarello, and others to speed up the rebuilding process. The Rangers haven’t been back in the playoffs since the 2016-17 season, and now they feel it’s the time to make a move to try and get back into the big dance. By stocking up on young assets with Vitali Kravtsov, Igor Shesterkin, K’Andre Miller, and others, the Rangers are poised to be a strong team for the next decade. Their rebuild got a huge boost when the Rangers jumped from the 6th to 2nd overall pick during the NHL Draft Lottery. Kaapo Kakko will most likely make his way to Madison Square Garden as he is the consensus number two selection. Kakko has been compared to Andrei Svechnikov and has the potential to be a star player in the NHL. With all things going right for the Rangers this offseason, signing Karlsson and Panarin could hinder the Blueshirts from reaching their goal of a Stanley Cup.
This offseason, the Rangers have around 23 million dollars available to make whatever moves Jeff Gorton and John Davidson seem fit. According to HockeyBuzz, Panarin is projected to garner approximately 11.5 million dollars, and Karlsson will earn a 10 million AAV deal. The Rangers would have enough money to complete both of these deals, but it would put them in long-term salary cap issues. Yes, Erik Karlsson and Artemi Panarin are great players, and they can lead the Rangers back to the playoffs, but they still wouldn’t be able to bring a Stanley Cup back to Broadway.
When the Rangers would be ready to compete for a fifth ring, Karlsson and Panarin would be past their primes. Both players will most likely earn 7-year deals, leading them into their late 30’s. Historically, long-term contracts for free agents do more damage to an organization than actually helping it. For comparison, let’s look at the Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty deals. Kopitar agreed to an 8-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings for an AAV of 10 million dollars. Kopitar signed this contract at twenty-eight years old, only one year older than Artemi Panarin is right now. Most analysts would agree that the Kopitar contract is already an overpay and is sending the Kings deeper into mediocrity. Panarin and Kopitar are similar in talent, thus making Kopitar’s deal a warning for other organizations. Next season is the first year of Drew Doughty’s new 8-year, 88 million dollar contract extension. Doughty and Karlsson have similar roles on their respective teams as puck-moving defensemen and are considered two of the best d-men in the league. However, would you give Karlsson that type of deal? I certainly wouldn’t. Even though Karlsson is an exceptional player, he is not worthy of a monstrous contract. Injury problems have plagued Karlsson’s career, and they will only get worse with age. As I am writing this, it’s reported that Karlsson will undergo groin injury. If this doesn’t help my point, I don’t know what does.
Even though long-term deals for veteran players do more harm than good, signing Artemi Panarin is understandable. Panarin hasn’t played many seasons in the NHL and has proven to be one of the most electric players in the league. He’s a potential hall of fame player and can be one of the best players on a championship team. The real issue with the Rangers plan is that they’re interested in signing Panarin and Karlsson. If they do sign Karlsson and Panarin, the Rangers will be cap strapped for many seasons and it will be difficult to sign their young players. Even though it will make the Rangers better next season, it won’t for the next five.
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