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.