With Jeff Skinner now off the list of potential UFA targets for the New York Islanders, the free agent class has gotten slightly thinner. However, the biggest name of them all and another potential target for the Islanders remains: Artemi Panarin.
WHY IS HE A FIT?
Panarin would be a fit on any NHL team. A 27-year-old point-per-game winger is an addition anyone would want to make but it’s especially a fit with the Islanders. He’s a great age for a UFA signing and though Nelson may not be perfect as a second-line center, adding depth on the wing is a top priority for New York and Panarin would be a massive upgrade to New York’s top-six. Panarin has developed into one of the NHL’s top talents since he moving to Columbus via trade and adding him in free agency would mean Anders Lee (should he return) wouldn’t be relied on so heavily on the left wing. Another factor to add in is that Panarin played big minutes on Columbus’ power play and could provide major assistance to the Islanders’ less-than-stellar operation, which finished 29th overall this season.
WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS?
Panarin will be the most sought-after player on the market and just about every team with cap space will be taking a shot at him. The Florida Panthers went as far as to begin clearing cap space mid-season to prepare for free agency (and presumably, Panarin). The Islanders have a lot to compete with to have a chance at signing Panarin and they need to be prepared for negotiations to turn into a bidding war.
Aside from the actual problem of trying to get him on board though, Panarin is all around the perfect UFA to sign.
WHAT COULD THE DEAL LOOK LIKE?
It would be massive. Panarin will get a maximum term seven-year deal anywhere he goes and as the top player on the market in his prime, the AAV could seriously be upwards of $11M. But why wouldn’t New York be willing to shell out that money? In Panarin, they’d get a legitimate franchise player and if he does have interest in coming to New York, the Islanders shouldn’t be afraid to run the money total up a bit to persuade him. That’s not to say this should be a common strategy with just any UFA this summer but Panarin is worth paying a pretty significant sum of money for.