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Rangers Sign Artemi Panarin, a Top Free-Agent Forward


The Rangers continued their roster revamp with their biggest splash yet on Monday, signing the high-scoring forward Artemi Panarin to a seven-year, $81.5 million contract.

Panarin, a 27-year-old Russian, was among the most-sought free agents. He had 28 goals and 59 assists for the Columbus Blue Jackets last season, his fourth year in the N.H.L.

The addition of Panarin continues a dramatic overhaul of the Rangers roster after they missed the playoffs for the second straight season.

John Davidson, the former president of the Blue Jackets, joined the Rangers in the same capacity in May. The Rangers have since acquired the elite defenseman Jacob Trouba from the Winnipeg Jets and drafted the Finnish forward Kaapo Kakko second overall last month. They also expect to have the Russian forward Vitali Kravtsov, a first-round pick last year, on the team next season.

“I’m ecstatic about getting Panarin here to join this group. I think he falls right into our plan,” Davidson said. “He’s always wanted to be in the big city and there’s no bigger city than New York.”

The signing comes a day after the Knicks, with the same owner and arena as the Rangers, failed to land the N.B.A. free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who signed with the Nets instead. Panarin had also been courted by the Islanders, who share an arena with the Nets.

Panarin represents the type of pure scorer the Rangers haven’t had since Marian Gaborik registered two 40-goal seasons after signing as a free agent in 2009.

“There’s something special about Panarin in the way he plays the game, the way he looks at the game and the way he thinks about the game,” Davidson added. “In watching him play in big spots, he just seems to love it.”

Panarin has 116 goals and 204 assists in four seasons with Chicago and Columbus. He won the Calder Trophy as the league’s best rookie in 2015-16 and is one of three undrafted players in league history to record at least 70 points in each of their first four seasons.

Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton emphasized that in addition to adding an experienced scorer of Panarin’s pedigree, his mentoring potential is equally vital.

“We’re trying to get better every day,” Gorton said. “We have a lot of young players. One of the reasons we made this move is to help with our young players.”

The Rangers also traded forward Jimmy Vesey to the Buffalo Sabres for a third-round draft pick in 2021. Vesey, 26, was a coveted free agent out of Harvard in the summer of 2016. He had 40 goals and 50 assists in 240 games over three seasons with the Rangers.

And the Rangers signed free-agent forward Greg McKegg, 27, who played 41 games last season for the Carolina Hurricanes and Danny O’Regan, a 25-year-old center who played for A.H.L. Rochester last season.

The Islanders made two key moves on Monday, signing 31-year-old goaltender Semyon Varlamov to a four-year deal to replace Robin Lehner and re-signing power forward Anders Lee, 28, to a seven-year, $49 million contract.

“We feel very good about our team, our core players,” said Lou Lamoriello, the Islanders’ president of hockey operations. “Having them all back for the most part is important.”

Lee had 28 goals and 23 assists last season after he replaced John Tavares as team captain, then helped the Islanders finish with 103 points and reach the second round of the playoffs.

Varlamov spent the last eight seasons with the Colorado Avalanche. He has a career .916 save percentage.

Lehner, who had a memorable 25-win, .930 save percentage season for the Islanders last season, signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Chicago Blackhawks.

“You never leave relationships or friendships. Unfortunately things didn’t work out for different reasons,” Lamoriello said. “He’s a quality human being — certainly an outstanding goaltender — and we wish him the best.”

The Islanders also re-signed forward Tom Kuhnhackl to a one-year contract.

Also on Monday, the former Ranger Mats Zuccarello, traded to Dallas in February, joined the Minnesota Wild with a five-year contract worth $30 million.

“I really enjoyed New York. They brought me from a kid into the league. They will always have a special place in my heart,” Zuccarello said on a conference call. “I’m real excited to spend the next five years in Minnesota. It’s a hockey-crazy state.”

The top forward Matt Duchene, 28, signed a seven-year, $56 million with the Nashville Predators. He finished last season with Columbus after a trade from Ottawa, scoring a career-best 31 goals overall.

Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, 30, Panarin’s former teammate in Columbus, signed a seven-year, $70 million deal with the Florida Panthers.

The former Anaheim star Corey Perry, 34, signed a one-year deal with Dallas after 14 seasons with the Ducks. The Stars also signed former Sharks captain Joe Pavelski to a three-year deal.

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed the veteran forward Jason Spezza, 36, and completed a six-player trade with Ottawa, sending Nikita Zaitsev, 27, and two others to the Senators in exchange for Cody Ceci, Ben Harpur and a minor leaguer.

Toronto made a second major trade later Monday, sending veteran forward Nazem Kadri, defenseman Calle Rosen and a third-round pick in 2020 to the Colorado Avalanche for defenseman Tyson Barrie, forward Alexander Kerfoot and a sixth-round pick in next year’s draft.

The former Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid, 29, signed a one-year deal with Montreal.

Detroit signed 35-year-old forward Valtteri Filppula after he scored 17 goals in 72 games for the Islanders last season. Filppula spent the first eight seasons of his N.H.L. career with the Red Wings.

The Devils signed right wing Wayne Simmonds to a one-year, $5 million contract. The 30-year-old Simmonds, a six-time 20-goal scorer during eight seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, joins P.K. Subban and first overall draft pick Jack Hughes as key additions for the Devils after they missed the playoffs last season.


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