A few days ago, Artemi Panarin announced that he would be taking an indefinite leave of absence from the New York Rangers. It’s a devastating blow to the team, as Panarin–a dynamic forward the club acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets–was the team’s leading scorer throughout the 2020-2021 NHL season. Through his 14 game campaign, Panarin recorded 18 points–five goals and 13 assists.
On a New York Rangers squad, who have struggled thus far during the season, losing a point-per-game player is a crushing blow. It’s especially difficult considering that the Rangers’ other offensive dynamo, Mika Zibanejad, has been struggling this season. Without Panarin, the team’s scoring decreases significantly almost immediately. If they want to perform better and climb the NHL power rankings, the Rangers will have to do something to account for and cover the loss of their superstar forward.
Here are three options for the New York Rangers after losing Artemi Panarin
1. Light a fire under Mika Zibanejad
In previous seasons, Mika Zibanejad has been a 20-plus goal scorer. Last season, he put up 41 goals in 57 games–a far cry from his two on the season so far. But the Rangers’ organization knows Zibanejad is capable of more production and, in a crazy season, they could do whatever is necessary to increase his production after the loss of Artemi Panarin.
They may have to waive him to do so–like the Anaheim Ducks did with Adam Henrique. But it could make it worth their while. It would also clear up some cap room in the process. It may even allow them to pick up a sleeper player that could score a few goals.
As it stands, the team’s active leading point-getter is Pavel Buchnevich, who’s posted 12 points through 16 games, and players like Ryan Strome and Chris Kreider are generating goals for the team. They’ll miss Artemi Panarin feeding them pucks, but it’s a role Mika Zibanejad may be able to fill. At the very least, the team could rework its offense to feed the puck to the 27-year-old Swede, who could break his slump and find the twine if given more of the spotlight.
Giving Zibanejad the primary scoring responsibility on the team could put pressure on him to find the back of the net, or it could reverse the bad puck luck he’s had so far. It could backfire and see the Rangers plummet further into the basement of their division, but it is the cheapest, easiest option to deal with the Artemi Panarin loss.
2. Trade for Jack Eichel
While there have not yet been official confirmations from any club, NHL rumors are swirling that Jack Eichel could leave the Buffalo Sabres. New York could be an interesting landing place for the second overall pick in 2015. His cap hit is a bit of a turn off–a whopping $10 million is a big dent in a cap-reduced, budget tight season. But assuming the organization can move Tony DeAngelo (who they’ve already said could be traded at any time) a move could be in the works.
A lot of the Rangers’ lineup signed some version of a no movement clause, but talent like Ryan Strome and Brendan Lemieux could sweeten the pot. Eichel is comparable to the talent Artemi Panarin possess and the cap hit is about the same. So, assuming the Rangers can have Panarin’s contract not count against the salary cap, they have a comparable player at a similar price. Considering Buffalo is in talks to extend Taylor Hall’s one-year, $8 million deal, it could be interested in writing off the season, unloading Eichel’s contract and start building for the future.
3. Wait out Artemi Panarin’s leave of absence
The leave of absence is indefinite, though it’s likely that the New York Rangers organization knows more about how long Panarin will be missing from action than they’re letting on. If it’s only going to be a month or so, the club could just put him on injured reserve and wait it out, hoping that he’ll immediately slide back into the top scorer role upon his return.
Dan Rosen from NHL.com tweeted that Rangers head coach David Quinn has been in contact with Artemi Panarin, who is confident that he can return back to normal soon. In the meantime, they have two centers–Colin Blackwell and Jonny Brodzinski–on the taxi squad, and can rejig their lineup for a complete forward corps.
If he’ll be out for a majority of the season, the club could just cut their losses during an already subpar season, do nothing, and await next season. Panarin’s contract is hefty–he’s about an $11.6 million cap hit–and he’s signed through the 2025-2026 season with a no movement clause. They may have no choice but to do nothing, make small changes to their roster, and look to the future to start fresh.