Into The 2019 NHL Unrestricted Free Agent Class: Artemi Panarin
The Florida Panthers will meet with Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky on Monday.
© Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Artemi Panarin headlines this year’s free agent class by far and away. His 2018-19 salary came in at $6 million. Also, Panarin agreed to a deal with a nice signing bonus structure (just over $6.2 million). That features as a possible precursor in his next deal. It is a deal that expects to easily exceed $10 million AAV.

The problem is which team will the forward choose? A return to Columbus appears unlikely and the free agent has politely declined offers from quite a few teams. It feels like a four-horse race of sorts. The New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, and a mysterious fourth team lead the running.

Thoughts of a sign and trade for an eighth year look to have gone to the scrap yard. Furthermore, some reports suggest possible AAV’s of $12+ million now. The $9 million AAV to Jeff Skinner inflated the market bar. Let’s take a closer look.

Artemi Panarin contract year for the Columbus Blue Jackets

Honestly, Panarin scoring at a high-end pace consistently was a surprise especially after he fell off in the second half of his second season. Since the trade to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Artemi Panarin averaged just over a point a game. Average time on ice stayed steady at around 20 minutes for the two seasons.

This included 191 shots on net and six power play goals. Encouraging was the fact that his special teams’ points did not completely fall off a cliff.

As a matter of fact, other than one really bad stretch, Panarin still tallied 18 points on the man advantage and scored nearly 30-goals again. This is despite being featured on one of the league’s worst power-play units.

What could he do with an upgrade in talent? That becomes the burning question. On the other hand, the focus lies in the now and future. On the right team, Panarin could easily top 90 points and who knows, maybe 100?

Artemi Panarin plays the game under the adage that the best defense is a great offense. He deployed over 77% of the time in the offensive zone this year. Plus, the winger delivered a +6% relative possession metric on the year. While it was not the +8% from last year, it is still an elite level.

Now, the even more fun part is that the forward was a bit more selective this year. His shot total dropped by almost 20% and attempted shots dropped nearly 30%. His shooting percentage consequently went up to nearly 15% due to consistent goal rates (0.33-0.38 per season).

Again, the numbers from the Bill Comeau visualization support the theory that the focus is more than production and the dollar amount. Panarin’s metrics are off the charts good in several aspects — game score, relative possession metrics, and estimated shot assists.

What a new contract for Artemi Panarin could look like

According to Evolving Wild, Panarin’s salary projection comes in at around $11.17 million AAV for eight seasons. The question asks itself. Is $12 million or more that far fetched right now?

Also, there is another question. What stops a team from coming in with a “poached shorter-term deal”? A scenario plays out involving a three maybe four-year contract worth $12-14 million AAV. What does Panarin do?

Does the forward take another bite at the free-agent apple around age 30 or 31? Surely, this is something his agent and Panarin at least could be pondering. This would lend credence to a mysterious fourth team with ample cap room that may not have it in a few seasons.

Just the fact that Panarin’s numbers have been so consistently high adds to potential salary. There exists a standard overpay in the free-agent market by around one-third typically.

One has to pay to play in this market and the stakes are extremely high. This is especially true when it comes to the top player on the list. Yes, Panarin even exceeds Erik Karlsson in this case.

While the New York Islanders and Florida Panthers have been enamored with the idea of Artemi Panarin, the dilemma is only one team can win the services of Panarin. This is how Florida became the “early favorites” to land Panarin.

Let’s evaluate a few of the scenarios. After all, everyone has a price that they will draw the line on or so we think. For example, the New York Rangers will not go north of $12 million. That never has been fully confirmed, just implied.

A poaching contract includes the following possibilities:
  • 4 years — $50-54 million
  • 3 years — $39-42 million
Longer termed deals for Artemi Panarin may cost the following:
  • 7 years — $80-90 million
  • 6 years — $69-75 million
  • 5 years — $60-62.5 million

These numbers are not set in stone. With so many moving parts and several teams bidding, a bidding war remains something to keep an eye on.

Artemi Panarin carries a lot of intangible and added value including elite possession rates, a power play force (on the right team), and yes playoff production.

July 1st expects to see some major fireworks but when does the Panarin domino fall? That should set the rest of the market up for a busy week.