Artemi Panarin agreed to a seven-year, $81.5 million contract with the New York Rangers on Monday. It has an average annual value of $11.6 million.
"He's only 27 years of age, he's averaged [80 points] over the last four seasons he's played in the NHL, he's a healthy body," Rangers president John Davidson said of the forward. "We know he wants to be here in New York, specifically with the Rangers. It's a perfect fit."
Panarin led the Columbus Blue Jackets with an NHL career-high 87 points (28 goals, 59 assists) in 79 regular-season games last season. He had 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 10 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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He has 320 points (116 goals, 204 assists) in 322 NHL games over four seasons with the Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks, and 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in 27 playoff games.
"He loves to score, he loves to win," Davidson said. "I think he's going to love everything about playing for the New York Rangers."
Panarin was eligible to sign a contract extension with the Blue Jackets since July 1, 2018, but did not have contract discussions during the season after the sides failed to reach an agreement prior to training camp in September.
The Blue Jackets, the only team that could offer Panarin an eight-year contract per the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, made a late push to sign him Sunday.
"We said all along we would do everything we can to keep him," Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "We showed that."
The New York Islanders, Florida Panthers and Colorado Avalanche were also trying to sign Panarin, according to reports.
The Rangers, who met with Panarin last week in New York, didn't know until shortly after the free agent market opened at noon ET Monday that he was going to sign with them, general manager Jeff Gorton said.
Video: Artemi Panarin signs seven-year deal with Rangers
"There were very few players we looked at that would be part of what we wanted to do and accomplish," Gorton said. "This is a guy obviously we set out to acquire and thankfully it all worked out."
Davidson, who was the Blue Jackets president until joining the Rangers in the same role on May 17, said Panarin used to ask him about the Rangers, New York and playing in Madison Square Garden.
Davidson was a Rangers goalie from 1975-83 and a broadcaster for their games on MSG Network from 1986-2006.
"He's always wanted to and he's made it very vocal that he's always wanted to be in a big city, and there's no bigger city than New York," Davidson said. "In messaging with us, talking to us, he talked about how he wants to win. He actually talked about Mark Messier and what Mark Messier did with the Rangers (winning the Stanley Cup in 1994) to get into the winning part of the business. I knew Artemi very, very well, but our people knew him as a player but didn't know him as a person."
Gorton laid out the reasons Panarin stood out to them above every other free agent available.
Video: BOS@CBJ, Gm4: Panarin taps loose puck past Rask
"His skill, his age, his ability to make people better, the fact that he makes plays," Gorton said. "He's a goal-scorer and a playmaker, a power-play driver, puck-possession driver. I think the age, his background, the fact that we feel like he's got a lot of years left, the ability to make everybody better. There's so much that goes into that, but for us he was the No. 1 guy."
The Rangers also feel Panarin can be a leader for their young forward group. That includes fellow Russians Pavel Buchnevich (24 years old) and Vitali Kravtsov, the 19-year-old who was the No. 9 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, and Kaapo Kakko, the 18-year-old Finnish right wing who was the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.
Centers Filip Chytil, who will be 20 when the season starts, Lias Andersson, who will turn 21 on Oct. 13, and Brett Howden (21) also could benefit from Panarin.
"It's something we thought about a lot over the last week or so about the effect on the entire group," Gorton said. "We have some Russian young players coming into pro hockey here and some guys that have been here, so I think it'll be positive. From what I know and talking to [Davidson] and everybody else about the players, he's a guy that has an infectious personality, he makes players better and he's going to help us in a lot of ways with a lot of different players."
A key to that, Davidson said, is Panarin should be in his prime if and when the Rangers' young players start living up to their high expectations.
"I think he's excited about that," Davidson said. "I just think it's a win-win for him and our hockey club."
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