2019 Best Free Agent Signings: The Metropolitan Division
The Islanders may be holding back on Anders Lee and Robin Lehner as they are interested in Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky
© Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The offseason moves on as we head towards the best signings from the Metropolitan Division. September arrived and there are less than two weeks until training camp starts. In the meantime, it is time to take a look back at what signings were made during the free-agency period.

When combing through the signings, this was the division that probably had the most. Let’s take a look at two players — Artemi Panarin and Richard Panik.

Artemi Panarin — LW — Signed UFA with NY Rangers (7 years, $11.643 million AAV)

New York signed the biggest prize on the free-agent list in Panarin. The Metropolitan Division improved greatly over last year and the Rangers did as well. Panarin has been quite consistent with a range of 27-31 goals per season in his four years in the NHL. He finished last year with a career-high 87 points in 78 games.

Many expected the longer-term pact and the extremely high AAV. However, the Rangers paid a hair less than other teams were offering. Rumors suggested some $12 million + AAV’s were out there.

Here is a bit more from PuckPedia.

Again, the Rangers needed help offensively and Panarin provides that. What may be overlooked is that the best defense is sometimes a good offense. If Panarin is possessing the puck a lot (77.2% OZ, +6.2% team possession relative), that means fewer chances for the opposition.

Panarin’s numbers drive upward because of his ability to keep the puck in the offensive zone. He is one of the top-ten producers when it comes to time spent in that zone. This is while he has the puck. Also, the New York power play figures to get even better as Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin develop expected chemistry.

First, Panarin living up to the full length of this contract will be difficult. On the other hand, the left-winger could top 90 points this year and 25-30+ on the man advantage. That is the thought process on a ceiling.

Some more thoughts on this Metropolitan Division signing

Can the Rangers make the wildcard with this move? It is a possibility. Unfortunately for New York, there are several teams on the bubble that could still be better than the Rangers in the standings. Either way, New York will be more entertaining this season and particularly their top line.

Richard Panik — RW — Signed UFA with Washington Capitals (4 years, $2.75 million AAV)

While the price tag is very solid, there is some mild risk that Panik can be a streaky player. He gets aided in Washington because of the upgrade in surrounding talent. That should help immensely as the forward gets used to playing in the middle-six.

His minutes stayed around 16-17 minutes a night within Arizona’s top-six. The problem last year was that Panik shifted a good bit from the first to second to occasionally third line. The Arizona Coyotes found rhythm only every so often and that was a huge part of their scoring woes.

The forward still produced 33 points in 75 games. He shot at a 10% accuracy rate which was below his career number of near 12%. His shots per game rose to 1.9 a contest and his scoring chances per 60 reverted to normal. His health, which was a concern, remained solid as he played 75 contests.

PuckPedia has a little more on the right-winger here.

Panik averaged 1.66 points per 60 playing last year on a poor offense in Arizona. Also, the right-winger sees the possibility of being placed on the second power-play unit. That would be a nice boost on top of playing for an active middle-six.

Washington made a nice little signing here and for a reasonable price. Panik receiving $3-4+ million AAV was not out of the question. The fact that he signed for less, even with the fourth year added, makes this a good signing on paper. Again, the Metropolitan Division kept improving throughout the summer.

A few final thoughts on this Metropolitan Division signing

The upside on the forward becomes his ability to produce offensively especially in increased roles. If injuries press themselves, Panik can play with players like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. He did it in Chicago with a player like Patrick Kane without a problem.

Washington has a nice potential for their middle-six with this move.