Artemi Panarin

Artemi Panarin signs massive contract with Rangers, surpasses Patrick Kane as highest paid NHL winger

Artemi Panarin signs massive contract with Rangers, surpasses Patrick Kane as highest paid NHL winger

The biggest fish on the market is taking his talents to The Big Apple.

After months of speculation, Artemi Panarin signed a seven-year deal with the New York Rangers when NHL free agency opened on Monday and his deal reportedly carries a cap hit of $11.642 million, surpassing Patrick Kane ($10.5 million cap hit) as the highest paid winger in the league. Panarin reportedly turned down a lucrative last-second offer by Columbus late Sunday night, and the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders were believed to be involved in the bidding war also.

The belief was always that Panarin would be a package deal with fellow countryman Sergei Bobrovsky, who share the same agent. Florida originally emerged as the favorite to land both, and the hiring of Joel Quenneville only fueled speculation that Panarin would reunite with his former coach. But the Panthers were only able to land one of them, with Bobrovsky inking a seven-year contract and Panarin heading east to play for the Rangers.

It always felt like a longshot that Panarin would consider returning to Chicago, where he spent his first two NHL seasons before being traded to Columbus in a four-player deal that centered around Brandon Saad. Financially, it just didn't make sense for the Blackhawks to bring back the Bread Man and Panarin likely turned the page on that chapter a while ago.

The Blackhawks will get their first look at Panarin in a Rangers sweater on Feb. 19 when they host New York in what could be a nationally-televised Wednesday night game. The two teams also wrap up the season against each other on April 4, which could involve some interesting playoff implications.

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Artemi Panarin has a message for former teammate Patrick Kane: 'I am coming for you!'

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USA TODAY

Artemi Panarin has a message for former teammate Patrick Kane: 'I am coming for you!'

Artemi Panarin has a message for former teammate Patrick Kane:

“I am coming for you!”

The free agent left winger has been mixing some boxing in with the rest of his usual offseason workouts. On Wednesday, Panarin posted a video on his Instagram where he can be seen training with @anarmadboxing and he certainly seems to be taking his training seriously.

In the comments section on the post, fans pondered if Panarin would be seriously considering a return to the Blackhawks. You can see different fan bases making their case for the 27-year old winger in the comments, with Blue Jackets, Blackhawks and Canucks faithful being the most vocal.

Panarin will be a great addition wherever he chooses to go this offseason. Should he be matched up against Patrick Kane at some point next season, Kaner best think twice about scrapping with Panarin!

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Patrick Kane on Artemi Panarin's gift and possibility of reuniting with Blackhawks

Patrick Kane on Artemi Panarin's gift and possibility of reuniting with Blackhawks

Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin had one of the best on-ice chemistry you'll ever see between two hockey players with completely different backgrounds. They were a two-man show for the Blackhawks from 2015-17.

In each of those seasons, Panarin's cap hit was $812,500. But over the course of those two years, he racked up $5.375 million in performance bonuses. A big reason why he was able to unlock them was because he played on a line with Kane, who won the Art Ross and Hart Trophy in 2016 with 106 points.

When the Blackhawks were in Columbus on Oct. 20 this season, Panarin sent Kane a text to meet up the night before. Kane thought nothing of it, thinking it was going to be a nice time to reconnect. Until Panarin pulled out an expensive watch as a thank you to Kane for helping him hit those bonuses.

"It was a pretty special move by someone to do that," said Kane, who originally told ESPN's Emily Kaplan of the exchange for an upcoming feature. "Throughout the season you always joke around like, 'Oh, you hit some bonuses, what are you are going to give me?' Stuff like that. But you never really expect something like that to come of it. When I met up with him earlier this year I thought we were just meeting up to catch up. Didn't really know that was coming. It definitely took me back for sure."

With Panarin back in Chicago for the second and final meeting between the Blackhawks and Blue Jackets, early homecoming thoughts will certainly be in the air. At least for one night. 

There are nine days left until the trade deadline, and Panarin has made it clear he wants to test the open market on July 1. And that's 100 percent his right. Many would do the same thing. Whether or not he gets moved before Feb. 25 remains to be seen, but fans in Chicago can't help but think of the possibility of a potential Panarin return this summer with the Blackhawks expected to have lots of cap space.

Of course, Kane would love that too, but it's ultimately Panarin's decision and whether the team can financially make it work. Plus, the Blackhawks are in the middle of a playoff race, so it's not at the forefront of his mind right now.

"I don't know, we'll see what the situation comes to," Kane said about the possibility of playing with Panarin again. "Obviously we have a lot of season left here. I don't think you really find yourself thinking about it too much. Would it be great to play with him again? Yeah, obviously. But there's a lot for that to happen, whether he stays in Columbus, goes to free agency, goes to another team. It's his decision. [We'll] see what happens after the season."

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