The New York Rangers got their man, and he happens to be the prize of this year's free agent class.
According to multiple reports, the Rangers have agreed to a contract with former Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin. The deal is reportedly for seven years and in the neighborhood of $81.2 million, per Larry Brooks of the New York Post. That would bring the AAV to around $11.6 million.
Panarin deal with Rangers will come in at around $11.6M per, Post is told— Larry Brooks (@NYP_Brooksie) July 1, 2019
It's an expensive price to pay -- Panarin becomes the league's highest-paid winger, surpassing Patrick Kane's $10.5 million annual hit -- but it apparently was not the most expensive offer. Panarin reportedly left money on the table to join the Rangers. Columbus reportedly made a huge offer (somewhere around eight years and $96 million-$100 million in total) at the 11th hour Sunday, and the New York Islanders were also believed to be in on the bidding war.
In fact, the Islanders were considered favorites to sign Panarin late Sunday, but for the second-straight year they open up free agency by getting spurned by the top free agent on the market.
Panarin is an elite winger who has steadily contributed for the Blackhawks and Blue Jackets since coming into the NHL four years ago. He's coming off a career-best season in which he scored 28 goals and had 87 points for Columbus. He has 320 points in 322 games over the course of his career.
Panarin, 27, will join a rebuilding Rangers team that has added several big-time pieces already this summer, including hyped Finnish prospect Kaapo Kakko (selected second overall in this year's draft), promising defensive prospect Adam Fox (trade with Carolina Hurricanes) and top-pairing defenseman Jacob Trouba (trade with Winnipeg Jets).