Free Agent Frenzy is under 24 hours away, which means the Florida Panthers will find out if a couple of big fish decide to swim in their pond.
But now, the “real thing” is rapidly approaching and is only under a day away. GM Dale Tallon has already had his meeting with the two, hoping to entice the two Russians on why South Florida is the right fit.
Starting with Artemi Panarin, who’s regarded as the biggest fish in this summer’s free agency pond, is not only coveted by the Panthers but is being pursued by the Rangers and Islanders, as well. Colorado were believed to be in the mix at one point, but now, they are no longer in the running.
So that narrows the race down to three candidates, but who will be deemed the winner? Well, for starters, the Florida Panthers have been listed as favorites/frontrunners by Gord Miller, Bob McKenzie, Elliotte Friedman, Arthur Staple, and Odds Shark.
Yesterday, Dave Pagnotta of The Fourth Period said the following on Sportsnet 590:
"“It looks like Panarin is headed to FLA with Bobrovsky unless a New York team steps up with a significant offer, 12M+. FLA will move Hoffman, ideally for a D, if they sign Panarin. Reimer still on market, will be bought out tomorrow otherwise.”"
Take this for what you will, but I have always said that the Panthers are one of the very few teams (if not, the only team) to be able to entice both Panarin and Bobrovsky to come down to Florida.
Being able to afford not only Panarin, but his friend and compatriot in Bobrovsky, gives that added sweetener when convincing one (in this case, Panarin) to sign in South Florida.
In addition, having Joel Quenneville as the new head coach (Panarin’s former boss), Evgenii Dadonov (Panarin’s best friend), the cap space to afford both him and Bobrovsky, a solid core locked on team-friendly deals for another three-four seasons, no state tax, the team to win now and the weather, are all variables that work in favor of pitching the idea of Florida becoming Panarin’s new home.
Of course, the argument could be made that Panarin wants to play for a “big hockey market,” and if that’s the case (which it likely is), that could give the Rangers an added advantage over the Panthers in the Panarin sweepstakes.
However, according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, the Rangers will not engage in a bidding war in order to secure the services of Artemi Panarin. It’s believed “that if the Blueshirts extend Panarin an offer of seven years in the range of $11 million to $11.25 million, they would not then increase their offer to match or exceed higher bids.”
That piece of information is something that could make or break the Rangers’ chances of landing Artemi Panarin. If Panarin feels he wants $12M, the Rangers could be out of the running.
The Panthers, who currently have $25.2M in cap space, could definitely work out a deal with that price tag and a seven-year term given their cap situation and no state tax – which helps.
The Islanders, who are said to also be in the running for Panarin (as of late), have $20.6M in cap space, according to CapFriendly.
There are no reports on whether the Islanders are attempting to shed more salary to create more room, but depending on what they will do with Anders Lee (before a decision is made on Panarin), could in fact directly result their standing in this race.
The Islanders are also expected to take a run at goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, with no guarantee that Robin Lehner re-signs. The Isles are faced making decisions on both Anders Lee and Robin Lehner which could impact how they do in the race to sign this summer’s two highly coveted free agents.
The Panthers learned with the recent announcement from Roberto Luongo that he’s officially hanging the skates up and entering retirement. That not only means more cap space for the Cats, but it also opens up a roster spot, signaling that Florida has their No. 1 goalie spot available.
And, even more recently, the Panthers managed to find a trade partner for goaltender James Reimer, shipping him off to Carolina in exchange for netminder Scott Darling and a 2020 sixth-round draft pick.
Florida will not retain any portion of Reimer’s salary and will instead use that money to buy out Scott Darling. That’s extra wiggle room to give both Panarin and Bobrovsky the money they want, and perhaps outbid any team that comes in with an outstanding offer.
More from Free Agency
- Florida Panthers re-sign defensemen Casey Fitzgerald and John Ludvig
- Evan Rodrigues Signing Was a Steal for the Florida Panthers
- Florida Panthers: Expect Big Things From Brett Connolly
- Florida Panthers Bolster Depth on Defense with Jake Massie Signing
- Florida Panthers Sign Roy, Lowry and Desrosiers to Contracts
To summarize, the Florida Panthers lead the race in signing forward Artemi Panarin, with the Rangers following close by in second place. The Islanders, while interested, just don’t own the means to leapfrog the Panthers or Rangers.
It’s also been noted by various reports that either one of the NYI or NYR could be out of the race for the Russian sniper. However, I’ll believe it when I see it on July 1st. For now, it’s the Panthers leading, with the Rangers following close by in second and the Islanders remaining hopeful in third.
Finally, with Bobrovsky, this remains a two-legged race between the Panthers and Islanders. It’s been no surprise that the Panthers have been actively pursuing Bobrovsky for months now, given their goaltending situation.
The Islanders, who are fully expecting their starter Robin Lehner to test the market, are now turning to Bobrovsky as his replacement. While the Isles are in on both Panarin and Bobrovsky like the Panthers, it’s only expected they land one, if that.
Florida, like with Panarin, are favorites to land Bobrovksy, with the Islanders remaining second, hopeful that they can either re-sign Lehner or come to an agreement with Bobrovsky.
Either way, tomorrow’s free agency period should be interesting given the additional cap space Dale Tallon opened up. Don’t be surprised if a couple of big fish decide to take their talents to South Beach…