Buchnevich and Trouba file for arbitration as hockey offseason cools off

Yesterday, Pavel Buchnevich and Jacob Trouba filed for salary arbitration. It’s not exciting news for the Rangers. They still have four unsigned Group II free agents including Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemieux. Neither of which were arbitration eligible.

After signing number one target Artemi Panarin to an average of $11.6 million per year, the Rangers have approximately $10 million left on the estimated salary cap of $81.5 million. That leaves little wiggle room unless they get creative. By that, I mean use a buyout clause and move a couple of players to free up the necessary space to fit in the expensive Trouba to a long-term deal.

Likely buyout candidates are defensemen Brendan Smith or Kevin Shattenkirk. Smith makes more sense due to Shattenkirk being a right pair puck moving D, whose experience could come in handy if rookie Adam Fox isn’t ready. Assuming Trouba and DeAngelo are 1-2 on the depth chart, that would leave Shattenkirk and Fox, who the organization signed as a free agent to further revamp the blueline.

As for who else could possibly get moved, Vladislav Namestnikov is a cap hit of $4 million in the final year of his contract. A solid checking forward, who coach David Quinn liked to use on both power play and penalty kill, he is a movable asset. Especially if the team hopes to keep Chris Kreider. The 28-year old team leader enters the last year of his contract with an AAV of $4.625 million. If they want to compete for the playoffs right away, keeping Kreider makes sense. They don’t want a repeat of Mats Zuccarello or Kevin Hayes.

Assuming Trouba gets a long-term deal of say $7.5 million AAV over seven years, that would leave a little over $2.5 million for Buchnevich, Lemieux and DeAngelo. I’d estimate Buchnevich at between $2.5 to 3.25 million on a bridge deal. DeAngelo and Lemieux would be cheaper.

So, the organization has some hard decisions coming up. Are they considering extending Kreider? If not, they’ll have to trade him. Something that will hurt the team short term. A power forward like Kreider isn’t easily replaced. It’s not only about numbers with him. But what he brings. That net front presence is an important part of the Rangers offense. It can’t all be flash and dash. You don’t win with just that.

As excited as we are for the New Era of Rangers hockey featuring Panarin, Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov and Fox, the roster still can use some good old fashioned grit and sandpaper. Kreider brings that along with Lemieux, who’ll need to improve his skating and conditioning to become the top nine forward Quinn envisions. If Kreider goes, Micheal Ferland would be one option I would look at in free agency. That’s if they can fit him in.

You can be 10 percent over the cap during the summer before eventually, getting down. The Maple Leafs are still waiting before offering big RFA Mitch Marner a contract. So too are the Lightning with Brayden Point. Winnipeg has both Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine unsigned. The Hurricanes matched the Canadiens offer sheet to keep Sebastian Aho. No surprise.

The offseason has already cooled off considerably. Unlike the fireworks of the NBA free agency with the big bomb that Kawhi Leonard was joining the Clippers along with Paul George in the wee hours of Saturday morning, things are quiet on the NHL front. Too much so.

Hockey could use a good kick in the ass.

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Artemi Panarin unveils his new Rangers Jersey

Artemi Panarin is excited to show off his new Rangers Jersey at MSG. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy New York Rangers.

A day after agreeing to sign with the Rangers, Artemi Panarin unveiled his new Blueshirt jersey. The 27-year old Russian forward was all smiles at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers provided the entertainment on Twitter by showing the Bread Man’s jersey getting made. Which number would he choose?

He looked very happy at Madison Square Garden. Why not? For the first time, Panarin pulled over his new Rangers Jersey.

In a surprise to some, he chose No. 10 over 27. I was glad for a silly reason. The only Russian who wore No. 27 was my favorite player, Alex Kovalev. Former captain Ryan McDonagh also had it.

Instead, Panarin went the same route of Ron Duguay, Esa Tikkanen, Marian Gaborik and JT Miller. Not bad company.

The Bread Man also got to meet his new coach David Quinn for a photo op.

It’s definitely going to be exciting to watch him play. Panarin will form chemistry with Mika Zibanejad. The question is who gets to play with them. There are still a couple of big questions the Rangers must answer this offseason. We’ll dive into that next.

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Day 1: Rangers big Winners with Panarin, puzzling Islanders salvage a bad day by re-signing Lee

Sergei Bobrovsky signed on the dotted line with the Panthers as expected.

Day 1 is in the books. Not the books legendary Mets radio play by play man Howie Rose refers to when the Mets actually win a ballgame. But the Free Agent Frenzy had plenty of action and even some shockers.

The biggest fish was Artemi Panarin, who chose the Rangers over the Islanders for less money. Not that it makes a difference. The Bread Man got paid. That makes the Blueshirts big winners on July 1. Now comes the big pressure of delivering in the Big Apple. He’s got the next seven years to get it done.

As far as the Islanders, I have no idea what they’re thinking. I can understand chasing after Russian tandem Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, who wound up where everyone predicted. The two-time Vezina winner is the newest Panthers starting goalie, scoring a cool $10 million average over the next seven years. He is joined by Noel Acciari, Brett Connolly and Anton Stralman on a Florida team intent on returning to the playoffs under coach Joel Quenneville.

The Isles fascination could’ve cost them another captain. But thankfully, Anders Lee remained loyal by patiently waiting before signing a brand new seven-year contract worth a fair AAV of $7 million. That’s exactly what he deserved due to the market. It increased due to teammate Brock Nelson and Kevin Hayes getting paid last month. So, Lee stays with the only organization he knows.

The puzzling aspect is why the Islanders were so cold to heroic number one goalie Robin Lehner. By only offering the Masterton Trophy winners two years at $5 million per, they totally disrespected the Vezina finalist. It’s no wonder he said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ Instead, he oddly agreed to a one year deal worth the same $5 million with the Blackhawks. The same team that also has Corey Crawford. Wow. Nobody saw that coming.

Bob McKenzie had reported that the Isles were fascinated with Semyon Varlamov. Why? I have no clue. When healthy, he’s capable of being a good number one goalie. However, that’s a big if. So, why did GM Lou Lamoriello sign Varlamov to a four-year deal worth $5 million AAV. Why would they sign him for that length? It’s astonishing. They have Thomas Greiss for another year while top Russian goalie prospect Ilya Sorokin has another year to go with CSKA Moscow in the KHL. Linus Soderstrom has spent the last two seasons with HV71 Jonkoping of the Swedish Elite League.

The Devils made a sensible move by reaching agreement with veteran power forward Wayne Simmonds for one year, $5 million. If he can get back to being totally healthy, that seems like a good gamble by GM Ray Shero. Simmonds has something to prove. He plays the game the way it’s meant to be played by getting his jersey dirty and scoring garbage goals on the power play. He stands up for teammates and is tough. That’s the kind of guy I wouldn’t have minded in a Blueshirt. Oh well. I guess he’ll torment us like usual.

The biggest fireworks were delivered by the Canadiens in the form of a rare offer sheet. They signed restricted free agent Sebastian Aho to a front loaded five-year contract worth a reported $42.3 million. It averages out to $8.454 million.

There’s the question of whether the 21-year old Carolina Hurricanes center who put up over a point-per-game going 30-53-83 in 82 games, really wants to play in Montreal. He is a bright young star that’ll only get better. It’s no wonder the Hurricanes had a little fun on Twitter with that poll above. As if they won’t match. They have seven days.

Offer sheets are frowned upon. However, there’s nothing in the rulebook that says you can’t do it. I thought the Rangers should have considered it with Lightning Group II free agent center Brayden Point. Some wondered if Mitch Marner might get tendered an offer sheet. He wants the moon. Why not? He put up 94 points.

The Maple Leafs were very aggressive today by swinging a pair of cost cutting deals that should help them keep Marner. First, they traded defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Brown and Michael Carcone to the Senators for Cody Ceci, Ben Harpur, Aaron Luchuk and a 2020 third round pick.

Toronto then made a wise move to shore up the blueline by acquiring offensive right defenseman Tyson Barrie, RFA forward Alexander Kerfoot and a 2020 sixth round pick from the Avalanche for center Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen and a 2020 third. While most think the Leafs fleeced the Avs, Kadri is that perfect tenacious two-way center Colorado lacks. He’s on a cap friendly deal ($4.5 million AAV) thru 2022. Barrie is entering his final year and became expendable due to the surplus of good D the Avalanche have. Cale Makar is at the top of the list of Calder candidates. It’ll be interesting to follow the path of both teams next season.

Vancouver inked a trio of defensemen. Former Winnipeg Jet Tyler Myers agreed to a five-year contract worth an AAV of $6 million. They also added Jordie Benn for two years and $4 million. Oscar Fantenberg was signed for a year at $850,000. The Canucks made sure to lock up proven veteran leader Alex Edler for two years at an AAV of $6 million through 2021. With Quinn Hughes ready to patrol the back end, Vancouver could improve. Aside from Calder winner Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and newest Canuck JT Miller, they have a good system.

The Stars got veteran Corey Perry for a year at $1.5 million. If he can provide a spark like he once did as a star for the Ducks, that’s low risk. Adding both Perry and Joe Pavelski to a nucleus of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alex Radulov, Roope Hintz, John Klingberg, Miro Heiskanen and Esa Lindell solidifies them. Especially if Vezina runner-up Ben Bishop can stay healthy.

I like the Joonas Donskoi signing by Colorado too. They gave him nearly $4 million on average for over four years. So, they certainly overpaid. But Donskoi is the kind of high character player that can make a difference on a Cup contender. Those are the types you need to win.

The Sharks didn’t wait on restricted free agent forward Timo Meier. They signed him for four years at an AAV of $6 million. He’ll only improve. I thought the Capitals made two under the radar moves by adding depth forwards Richard Panik (4 for $11 million) and Garnet Hathaway (4 years, $6 million). Solid additions.

Then, you have the Pens continuing to do crazy moves that define logic. Brandon Tanev is a solid checking center. But why the heck did they go six years for the former Jet? It’s a bit mystifying. He gets $3.5 million AAV to provide for Pittsburgh what he did for Winnipeg. After unloading Phil Kessel for Alex Galchenyuk, they sure have changed the look of their roster. Is it better? I don’t think so.

After striking out on Panarin, the Blue Jackets gave Gustav Nyquist four years at an AAV of $5.5 million. While he’s a solid secondary scorer, consistency has been an issue which is why the Red Wings gave up on him. We’ll see if a change of scenery can spark Nyquist the way it did Tomas Tatar.

Former Islander Valtteri Filppula decided to go back to Detroit for a multi-year deal worth a bargain price of $6 million. He was a valuable asset to the Isles who could be missed. He scored some big goals in helping them reach the second round.

I don’t quite get why Florida went three years on Stralman. He’s been hurt more often the past couple of seasons with Tampa. Three for $16.5 million seems one too many years. I certainly respect Stralman for the player he is. He knows how to play the position. That should help a suspect blueline.

Carolina was wise enough to bring back Petr Mrazek on a reasonable two year contract worth an average of $3.125 million.

Mike Smith traded in his Calgary jersey for an Edmonton one. I guess he likes Alberta. Had Cam Talbot not been dealt from the Oilers to the Flyers, it basically would’ve been like a trade between blood rivals. It’ll be interesting to follow.

Some of the remaining free agents left include Micheal Ferland, Brian Boyle, Marcus Johansson, Jake Gardiner, Joe Thornton (until he re-signs with San Jose), Justin Williams, Pat Maroon, Ryan Dzingel, Derick Brassard, Oscar Lindberg and Patrick Marleau.

With the day winding down, I’m sure the activity will slow down with Independence Day on Thursday. I’ll keep you posted on any big news.

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Devils sign Simmonds to one-year deal

I’ve never been as meh about July 1 as I was this year, in part because I wasn’t expecting Ray Shero to dive into the deep end of the pool and in part also because we weren’t about to lose anyone significant either.  At most I figured maybe we’d get a trade for a still-needed top six winger but that market has slowed for the moment.  Perhaps once the dust settles off the yearly day of madness some teams will realize they need a little more breathing room cap-wise or roster-wise and come calling.

As far as actually signing players though I figured on one or two depth signings, if that.  So I alternately was and wasn’t surprised that the Devils decided to take a calculated risk on long-time Flyer Wayne Simmonds, signing the physical winger to a one-year, $5 million contract.  On paper Simmonds is something the Devils need to balance out their mostly smallish, finesse top six – capable of playing the PP and scoring dirty goals in front and also more than willing to police things physically and set a tone, one that’ll likely need to be set from time to time given that we have some small but important youngsters in the top six that teams will likely take runs at.

While there’s almost no such thing as a bad one-year deal, the fact is Simmonds dropped off dramatically last year, – after seven seasons as a 25-30 goal, 55-point type player his offensive production dipped to 17 goals and 30 points in 79 games last year between the Flyers and Predators.  If Simmonds can bounce back, this deal will be well worth it.  If not, it’s not like the Devils were going to use all their cap space this year anyway, even after trading for P.K. Subban.

Speaking of which, it is interesting that the two newest Devils have played together before, both in juniors when Canada won the 2008 U-20 title and the end of last season in Nashville.

Even Taylor Hall played with Simmonds briefly – at an All-Star game a couple years ago.  You don’t have to have played with Simmonds to know of his rep, but he should add leadership in the room that was lost when guys like Brian Boyle and Ben Lovejoy were dealt at the deadline in the Spring.  Tangibly and intangibly, Simmonds’ signing makes perfect sense.

Not that I expect Simmonds to be our top six solution on the wing short or long-term but he does buy a little time for some of our kids to develop.  While a real upgrade in the top six would be nice I’m not sure one is forthcoming since Shero needs to maintain cap flexibility beyond this year with Hall up for free agency and third-year players Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt due handsome raises on their next contract.  Though the Devils only have $36 million committed to seven players next year, those three would add another $24-25 million, leaving about that amount to fill the rest of the roster, not counting the RFA deal defenseman Will Butcher is due this offseason.

Crunching those numbers convinces me more than ever our next big upgrade – if one’s to be found this offseason – will have to come via trade.  I don’t think Shero will willingly stand pat, just adding Subban and 18-year old Jack Hughes isn’t enough to break through a tough East playoff picture that got tougher with the Panthers and Rangers adding today.  Of course the July 1 winners usually go splat when the games start counting but the Panthers also added Joel Quenneville as coach while you have to figure one of these years the Rangers will sign a big name that doesn’t blow up on them.  It’s not implausible Shero could bide his time to see if any of the kids step up before making that upgrade though.

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Rangers add Greg McKegg and Danny O’Regan

Business isn’t over yet. The Rangers signed free agent forwards Greg McKegg and Danny O’Regan. They just announced it on Twitter.

While O’Regan certainly is Hartford bound as a veteran presence to help the younger players for the Wolf Pack, McKegg was a key fourth liner for the Hurricanes during their run to the Eastern Conference Final. A 27-year old veteran who’s played with five teams since ’13-14, McKegg established himself under Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour.

Playing in a career high 41 games for one team, he established career bests in goals (6), assists (5) and points (11) for the Canes. A gritty player, McKegg can be a support player if he makes the roster. He scored two goals in the playoffs for Carolina while getting 10:44 of ice-time.

There’s nothing wrong with adding a good character, role player who should be helpful in the room. The Rangers don’t have much experience. This is an example of a smart signing.

Are they still in on free agent center Brian Boyle? A Broadway reunion on a short term deal could make sense. But it largely depends on how they view the center position that includes Lias Andersson, Brett Howden, Boo Nieves and Filip Chytil, whose natural position is center.

We’ll have to wait and see.j

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Panarin chooses the Rangers over Islanders

Welcome to Broadway Artemi Panarin.

Twelve hours ago, it was looking pretty bleak for the Rangers in their pursuit of Artemi Panarin. The bitter rival Islanders had the inside track to landing the high scoring Russian forward by offering more money. Even the Blue Jackets made a last ditch effort to keep Panarin by going to $13 million for an eight year max before midnight.

In the end, the 27-year old Panarin decided he wanted Manhattan over Brooklyn or Long Island. Perhaps he used the oldest trick in the book. Panarin played the field against each other. He used both the Panthers and Islanders for leverage to squeeze a little more out of the Rangers.

That’s the name of the game. When it comes to unrestricted free agency, it’s in the player’s hands. They dictate what happens. Especially when you have as many interested suitors.

There’s no question Panarin is a legit first line talent who makes teammates around him better. That’s what the Rangers are banking on. Is it worth the risk over the long-term? We’re about to find out. It’s now official.

The term is $11.6 million AAV over seven years. So, he left money on the table to sign with the Rangers. It’s where he wanted to be. It’s seven years worth $81.5 million.

In four years with the Blackhawks and Blue Jackets, Panarin has totaled 320 points over 322 career games. More a playmaker than a finisher, the Bread Man has scored 116 goals while handing out 204 assists. A superb skater with excellent vision, he should be a big power play weapon.

Interestingly enough, the breakdown between even strength and power play for Panarin shows a decided edge mostly at five-on-five. During his four-year NHL career, he’s done most of his damage at even strength. Of the 320 total points he’s produced, 240 have come at even strength. The even strength breakdown is 86 goals and 154 assists. That is a big number that should excite the Rangers. His power play numbers are 30-50-80.

A strong puck possession player, it’s no surprise that he’s averaged a 54.5 Corsi over his first four NHL seasons. It’s also not shocking how he’s been used. Panarin is a above average offensive player, but not the best defensively. So, it stands to reason that he’s averaged a ridiculous 74.0 percent for offensive zone starts compared to only 26.0 in the defensive zone. That shouldn’t change on Broadway.

What kind of impact will an elite first line forward have on his new Ranger teammates? Coming off a career high 87 points in which he posted 28 goals and 59 assists with Columbus, he’s in the prime of his career. What’s even better is he’s only completed four long NHL season, which means he should have more peak years left.

By comparison, Chris Kreider has played over six seasons and totaled 460 games along with 77 postseason games. With the Panarin addition, it could spell the end of an era for the Blueshirts. Kreider is the last big name forward left over from the big runs in 2012, ’14 and ’15. The original ’09 first round pick stolen at number 19 has been a true warrior for this team.

Maybe the big, strong power forward with tremendous speed and skill hasn’t hit the projected numbers I believe he could. The 30-goal mark and 70 points. However, a strong possession player who sacrifices so much by doing the grunt work in front of the net, will be missed.

If this really is it, the 28-year old Kreider was a popular Ranger who gave fans some great moments. A year away from unrestricted status, it looks like he could be dealt to clear room. He has a year left at a bargain price of $4.625 million. The next contract he signs will come out between $6.5 to 7.25 million on average. It’s fair market value for the two-time 28-goal scorer who’s eclipsed 50 points twice.

I wish they could keep him. But there’s no way they’re going to put themselves in another Kevin Hayes or Mats Zuccarello situation. It doesn’t make sense. If he goes, No. 20 will be missed. He was one of those core players during the fun era started by John Tortorella and ended by Alain Vigneault, who flourished alongside American buddy and linemate Derek Stepan. Their chemistry was undeniable. I wonder if the Coyotes would consider a reunion. They just added Phil Kessel. So, it’s unlikely. Colorado could be a good fit for Kreider, who could supply the secondary scoring on a Cup contender. The Rangers almost traded him at the NHL Draft last week for the Avalanche’s first round pick. Instead, they took Alex Newhook at number 16.

While we wait and see what the next move is from GM Jeff Gorton and Team President John Davidson, it’s an exciting time for Ranger fans. They got their guy and didn’t cave in. It’s still overpayment for a very good player, whose playoffs helped. He had five goals and six helpers in two rounds for Columbus.

How does a top line of Panarin-Mika Zibanejad-Kaapo Kakko strike you? It probably won’t happen right away due to key RFA Pavel Buchnevich, who has formed solid chemistry with Zibanejad. But eventually, Kakko should be on the top line with Buchnevich sliding down to a second line with potentially Vitali Kravtsov and Filip Chytil.

There’s still the issue of who is their second center behind Zibanejad. Chytil is more effective on the wing. Kravtsov is brand new. Lias Andersson has to prove he belongs in the top nine with competition coming from Brett Howden. Ryan Strome can shift to center if needed. But I prefer him on the right side.

The bottom line is the Rangers just got a lot more interesting. There will be plenty of excitement surrounding them this Autumn. For now, we have to see what else they have planned. They still must pay defenseman Jacob Trouba a lot of money. Combined with Panarin, that’s an estimated 19 million. They will still have room for Buchnevich, Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemieux. A key players who could help replace what Kreider brought. Though he doesn’t possess the high end skill, Lemieux plays the game with a physical edge that fans love. It’s up to him to improve his skating.

While this is a great day for the Rangers, it’s gotta be a somber one for the Islanders, who struck out on both Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, who inked a seven year deal worth $70 million with the Panthers. What happens if Anders Lee decides to leave to the rumored Canadiens after being second fiddle? The same for Robin Lehner.

You have to laugh. Wayne Simmonds signed for a year, $5 million with the Devils. A good move by New Jersey. We’ll have more on the craziness of the frenzy later.

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Rangers deal Vesey to Sabres

In a cost cutting move to prepare to land big fish Artemi Panarin, the Rangers sent forward Jimmy Vesey upstate to the Sabres in exchange for a third round pick in 2021.

The trade was first reported by TSN insider Darren Dreger. It had been rumored for over a week. The Sabres had interest in acquiring Vesey to help boost their secondary scoring. So, it made sense for both teams to do business.

Ironically, it was Buffalo who sacrificed a third round pick in 2016 to try to sign Vesey out of Harvard. However, he didn’t want to sign there and instead became a Ranger in August of that summer.

The 26-year old Boston native spent three years on Broadway. He never quite fulfilled expectations. Despite his 6-3, 199 pound frame, Vesey never topped over 17 goals in any season. In ’16-17, he went 16-11-27 in 80 games and then had five points (1-4-5) in 12 playoff games.

This past season under coach David Quinn, he did establish a new career high with 35 points (17-18-35) over 81 contests. It’s unfortunate that be wasn’t more consistent in the scoring department. It certainly wasn’t from lack of effort.

On the Blueshirts, Vesey never became more than a third liner. Now that he’s going to Buffalo, there’s more of an opportunity for him to be higher on the depth chart. The Sabres don’t exactly have much scoring help for Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner and Sam Reinhardt. They could be a good fit.

Vesey has a year remaining on his contract. His cap number is $2.275 million. We’ll see if a change of scenery in a contract year benefits him.

The Rangers cleared necessary space to sign Panarin. More on that big move when it becomes official.

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July 1 Madness is here

It appears that Artemi Panarin will be signing with either the Islanders or Panthers. Not the Rangers due to his insane asking price. AP Photo via Getty Images

Well, it’s July 1. Unlike previous years, there are already contracts being leaked thanks to the annoyance of social media. I’m sorry to be a downer. But I preferred being surprised with the announcements on the Free Agent Frenzy show on NHL Network.

Oh well. We already know that Mats Zuccarello is signing with the Wild for five years at an average of $6 million. Wow. It’s not so much the cap number, but rather that fifth year. That’ll take Zucc to 36 by the conclusion of the contract in 2024. He turns 32 this September. Good luck to one of the true good guys in Minnesota.

We’ve also seen some activity via trades. The biggest coming from the Penguins, who finally moved scoring ace Phil Kessel to the Coyotes in a deal that netted Alex Galchenyuk. The full breakdown is Kessel, Dane Birks and a 2021 fourth round pick to Arizona for Galchenyuk and Pierre-Olivier Joseph. So much for Galchenyuk lasting long in the Desert. He’s now on his third team in three years. Personally, I think it’s over for the Pens. They’re gonna take a step back.

The Blackhawks went Back To The Future II mode by reacquiring Andrew Shaw from the Canadiens. So, after a career year in Montreal, the popular bottom six forward returns to his roots in Chicago where he helped them win Cups. The deal is Shaw and a 2021 seventh round pick to the Hawks for a 2020 second, 2020 seventh and a 2021 third. The irony being that in the original trade with the Habs, they turned a second round pick into Alex DeBrincat.

In an unsurprising move following Roberto Luongo announcing his retirement on Twitter, the Panthers dumped veteran James Reimer to the Hurricanes for Scott Darling. The Canes also received a 2020 sixth for taking Reimer. Florida cleared room to sign Sergei Bobrovsky, who was actually also listening to the Islanders. It looks like he’ll sign with the Cats while the big fish, Artemi Panarin tries to figure out what his destination is.

At this point, nobody really knows. Columbus actually tried to keep him by offering a crazy amount of over $13 million AAV for the max of eight years. But the midnight deadline came and went. It’s obvious he wasn’t returning. The Panthers would like to pair him up with Bobrovsky and turn into a playoff contender. But the Islanders are all in on Bread Man. They’re supposedly offering more years and dollars than the Rangers and Avalanche.

All the hype surrounding a very good hockey player, who’s not quite the elite player other superstars are, is a bit perplexing. I think my good friend Madison Miller summed it up best.

Her podcast is a good listen. I tried my best to console her over the Knicks losing out to the Nets on Kevin Durant. That’s a much bigger story than Panarin or any NHL free agent. The NBA has the NHL beat in the wild and crazy summer madness. Don’t believe me? Take a look at some of the insane contracts being handed out. Big names are either staying or moving. The NHL never will have that ever again due to how quickly teams lock up their young megastars.

We also know Matt Duchene is Nashville bound as had been rumored for a while. Once they got the Devils to take all of PK Subban’s remaining contract, it was obvious that they were getting Duchene to fill a void at top center. He gets an AAV of $8 million tax free. That’s a unhealthy advantage markets such as Tampa, Florida, Nashville, Las Vegas and Dallas have.

Speaking of which, the Stars committed $7 million AAV for over three years to former Shark captain Joe Pavelski. They were very close to beating the Blues, losing in sudden death. Dallas is close to contending for a Cup. They wouldn’t go a fifth year on Zuccarello. So, no first round pick for the Rangers.

How about Vegas moving out Colin Miller to the Sabres and sending Erik Haula to the Hurricanes. That saves them on the much rumored $81.5 million salary cap. They had to subtract money due to the contract they gave William Karlsson. He gets under $6 million on average, but without any taxes. For my two cents worth, he’s better than either Brock Nelson or Kevin Hayes.

The rumor mongers were dead wrong on the Rangers. They didn’t buyout anyone in the first period. So, Brendan Smith and Kevin Shattenkirk are still here. I expect Shattenkirk to stay put due to the uncertainty surrounding Adam Fox. I’m not sure if Smith will have a role.

If they strike out on Panarin, which I’m expecting, they then could move onto Plan B. That’s work on an extension for Chris Kreider, which would save approximately between 4-5 million. They still have to get Jacob Trouba signed. That’s gonna be a high cap number between $7.5 to 8 million over seven years. They also will turn their attention to restricted free agents Pavel Buchnevich, Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemieux. Speaking of DeAngelo, he had this gem before on Twitter.

So, you think they don’t pay attention? 😁😱

A couple of other quick hits before bed.

Former Blueshirt Cam Talbot signs with Calgary for one year, $2.75 million. Hope it works out better for him.

The Isles have been linked to Semyon Varlamov. Over Robin Lehner? I don’t buy it.

I think it would be nuts to sign a goalie who was injured and lost his starting job in Colorado over Lehner, who was unbelievable for the Islanders. But what do I know?

As far as Panarin, if he chooses the Islanders over the Rangers, so be it. I’m not going to lose any sleep. The Rangers aren’t one player away. They’re not a playoff team yet on paper. I think fans must remain patient. The plan is in place. Trust the process.

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What’s not to love about Jack Hughes?

Head Of The Class: Devils number one pick Jack Hughes (middle) headlines a new era with Kaapo Kakko (left) of the Hudson Rivalry. AP Photo via Getty Images

Okay. Judging by the title, I’m going to take a beating from my Ranger fans here. But before you roast me, let’s be honest.

Jack Hughes is an American dream. The Devils’ top pick has the looks, smile and personality to vault the NHL into the next decade. It’s not only about the world class skill he possesses. He is the kind of rare generational player that doesn’t come along too often.

The best part is Hughes will become a headliner in the metropolitan area. Even if it’s in Newark for the enemy, it’ll be with the backdrop of the Big Apple close by. This is a home run if the league actually markets the Devils franchise center. You know. Like they once did with Crosby and Ovechkin.

That means giving him more exposure along with the Devils on NBCSN. Why wouldn’t they? GM Ray Shero added larger than life personality in top right defenseman PK Subban. A 30-year old veteran who has a lot of motivation after the Predators couldn’t wait to dump his contract a year removed from a big season that saw him finish in the top three for the Norris.

If Taylor Hall rebounds in a contract year provided the former league MVP is healthy, the Devils could find themselves back in the playoffs next year. Especially if Hughes delivers in his rookie season. The playmaking pivot has great hockey sense and vision that can make teammates better. He should be fun to watch on the power play with Hall and Subban.

Don’t forget Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri either. Both will play key roles in whether the Devils can turn it around. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the goalie situation. Cory Schneider is the number one until proven otherwise. Mackenzie Blackwood will challenge him. That could turn into a good situation with the younger netminder pushing the established vet.

But it’s really all about Hughes in New Jersey. The palpable excitement he showed last week after Devils legend Martin Brodeur made it official at the podium in Vancouver. This 18-year old kid was pumped up to be number one overall and a Devil, praising the organization. He has a close relationship with Shero, which is why it was never in doubt. They love him.

Fans should too. Look. I’m not suggesting that as rival fans, we should go out and get Hughes jerseys. I’m not that far gone yet. But a Hughes USA jersey would be pretty cool. I know this will anger the Kaapo Kakko crowd. I love Kakko and believe he will do for the Rangers what Hughes will for the Devils. But Hughes is American and is interesting to listen to. The enthusiasm is refreshing compared to your standard bore and snore fest with Crosby and lackey Pierre McGuire.

There’s one thing we can all agree on. Having Hughes in Newark and Kakko in Manhattan will add the much needed juice to what’s been a stale Hudson Rivalry. Throw in Subban and Jacob Trouba and you’ll have plenty of intensity in the stands like the glory days. How long before Devil fans chant, “Jack Is Better?” October 17th is marked for a reason.

Even the Devils seem intrigued by pricey Russian free agent forward Artemi Panarin. But if it’s indeed true that he is reportedly seeking as much as $12 million per year, that’s too rich for even the Rangers. I doubt the Islanders would do it. They’re also interested which could spell the end for captain Anders Lee. Imagine losing captains in consecutive summers. With the unfair advantage Florida has due to no state income taxes, I would expect the Bread Man to wind up there along with former Blue Jacket Sergei Bobrovsky.

That’s enough free agency talk for now. July 1 is still three days away. On Monday is when we’ll learn a lot more. For now, let’s celebrate the arrival of Hughes and Kakko. They’ll be taking the rivalry into new territory.

Get ready.

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Kravtsov could be ready for primetime

Rangers 2018 first round pick Vitali Kravtsov is turning heads this week at Rookie Prospect Camp. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy NHL.com

At the Rangers Prospect Camp, Vitali Kravtsov is the one player making all the noise. The 2018 first round pick the team took ninth overall last year, has been drawing raves with his play in the rookie scrimmages.

While most of the hoopla surrounds second pick Kaapo Kakko, the 19-year old Russian forward has been the best player this week. Not only is he impressing on the ice, but off it as well. During an interview session, Kravtsov refused an interpreter by opting to speak in English. It went well.

It’s obvious that the talented Kravtsov has a good personality to match his unique set of skills. He wants to have fun. It definitely shows. There’s a lot to like about him. His ability to see the ice and make plays for teammates will be a welcome sight once he gets to Broadway. Not yet guaranteed. It’ll depend on training camp.

Above, here is Kravtsov completely faking out Adam Huska by setting up 20-year old center Morgan Barron for a beautiful goal that drew oohs and ahhs from the fans that attended. As evidenced by his good showing (2-4-6) in the U20 WJC where he successfully shifted to center on Russia, the Rangers should be truly excited about this young prospect.

As much focus as there continues to be from most Ranger fans over a certain Russian free agent the team spoke to in person yesterday, it’s the potential of players like Kravtsov, Kakko, Adam Fox, K’Andre Miller, Igor Shesterkin, etc. that should set up the franchise well for the future.

Don’t believe me? Look at this sweet move and finish by Kravtsov on a penalty shot.

I like how he patiently waited for the five-hole to open up before beating Huska. He said afterwards that he prefers to go there if it’s available.

Finally, remember all that fuss over the organization selecting Kravtsov over Oliver Wahlstrom, who the Islanders took two spots later? Well, based on where they are in their development right now, the Rangers are being proven right.

I can admit that I am wrong. Very happy to do so.

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