Artemi Panarin
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

A specific trade within a position group could be the New York Rangers key in snagging sniper Artemi Panarin. 

Frank Curto

Jeff Gorton and his New York Rangers have done pretty much everything right since the season ended in April.

They have the second overall pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. The team signed Vitali Kravtsov and Igor Shesterkin to entry-level contracts, and will have both in training camp in September. Monday’s acquisition of Jacob Trouba addressed their need for a top-tier defenseman to stand on the Blueline.

Once the team announces the selection on Friday night, which should be one of Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko, the hardest part of the season will still be in front of them.

The Blueshirts want to continue to be aggressive when free agency begins, which means a full push for the top player available this year, Artemi Panarin. The contract they offer him will not come without a change in personnel.

The trading of a veteran forward cracks the Panarin code. It’s the key in acquiring the superstar sniper and signing Trouba long term, as well as other restricted free agents the team currently possesses. The team has several key players who will be unrestricted free agents at the end of next season.

The biggest question mark is Chris Kreider. The team needs to address the right winger now and decide to extend his contract or trade him, possibly before the trade deadline, to get the most. value for him.

Kreider has a cap hit of $4.625 million this season. Added to his complex situation is the modified no-trade clause currently in his contract. Should the Rangers decide trading him is the best option, the Kredierman would have to give the organization a list of 11 teams he does not want to be traded to.

Jimmy Vesey has been mentioned as a possible Buffalo Sabres target. The 26-year-old has had a tumultuous career on Broadway. He has played in 240 games for the Rangers scoring 50 goals with 90 points.

Vesey’s cap hit this year is $2.275 million. The forward has been good for the Rangers at times, but his inconsistencies have shown more than his productivity. He has been a non-factor in the power-play and seemed to play his best hockey when Rick Nash was on the same line with him.

Vladislav Namestnikov might be the biggest disappointment on the team. His cap hit this season is a staggering $4 million, a huge number for a player who never reached the potential that he showed when he was a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The last UFA at season’s end to discuss is Jesper Fast. Quickie can be classified as the heart and soul of the team now that Zuccarello is no longer on the team. The reliable forward is used in almost every game situation. He is the least likely to be traded in this writer’s opinion. His value and experience to the club cannot be replaced.

The team and its fans for that matter cannot go through another year as they did last season with Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes. The UFAs need to be addressed earlier in the process this season.

The Rangers have other forwards to move. Pavel Buchnevich and Brendan Lemieux are restricted free agents at the end of the season. Lemieux has become a fan favorite with his “in your face” style of play. The team needs him in the lineup.

Buchnevich is on the bubble with the club, especially with his contract status up in the air. I’d assume he might be the last to get his contract decided pending how things go through the summer during free agency.

Lias Andersson is another struggling player, but the team hasn’t given up on the 2017 first-round pick. It’s way too early to dangle him in a trade, though this season is a big one for his career.

The Rangers have about $19 million in cap space as of June 18. The contracts that are offered to the UFAs and RFAs will be based on what the team does in free agency. If the Rangers sign Panarin, players will have to be moved.

Trades are going to be made as they have been in the past. Vesey and Namestnikov might have seen their last days in Rangers sweaters. It’s the business they choose, but getting this team ready to make the playoffs is the number-one priority.

This would all become a lot easier if the Gorton and John Davidson are unable to sign Panarin to a long-term contract come July 1.

Let’s hope the team’s business decisions create a winning attitude once again in Rangerstown.

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A graduate of St. John's University class of '91. I have been a fan of the New York Rangers since the days of Peter Puck. Founder of Ranger Proud, the Facebook page that covers all news, notes, pre /post-game stats, and player quotes. I can be reached at