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.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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