It’s been an up, down and sideways week for New York Islanders fans following free agency rumors and leanings during the listening period and as teams and players could formally announce moves.
The Islanders were pursuing top free agent winger Artemi Panarin and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who some wondered may be in a “package” weighing either the Florida Panthers or the Islanders.
[NOTE: This post has been updated with Panarin’s eventual destination.]
But by evening before signing day, one of the oracles of the business had this to say about where things stood:
It doesn’t appear as though Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky will be signed as a set. Signs point toward Bobrovsky ending up in FLA while NYI appear the favourite to land Panarin. Both players are repped by the same agent, Paul Theofanous.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 30, 2019
Note from the prior tweet that Bob McKenzie labeled this as part of his “speculation” thread, which proved to be prescient:
NYR, BTW, do not feel as though the door has closed yet on Artemi Panarin. So there’s that. Which is why this is the “speculation” thread.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) July 1, 2019
UPDATE: Blue Jackets Make last-ditch, max-term offer
Then there was this, from Aaron Portzline who covers the Blue Jackets of the Athletic:
Amid reports that Panarin is likely to sign on Monday with the New York Islanders, the Blue Jackets have put a massive offer on the table with agent Paul Theofanous, believed to be eight years and at least $96 million, an average annual value of $12 million per season.
The Blue Jackets are the only team that can offer Panarin an eight-year contract, but the window on that is closing quickly. It would have to be agreed upon and signed by midnight Sunday.
Honestly? It seems like the Blue Jackets offer would be a smokescreen to unsettle a rival and their departing free agent. They’ve always wanted to hold on to Panarin, so it would be odd if only now he decided to stay for that extra year. But it makes things interesting.
Anyway, as you know, Panarin went to the Rangers instead. Ouch.
Terms on Panarin. Love that #NYR held firm on their number. Was told all week they weren’t getting into a bidding war, didn’t want to go beyond $11.5. Panarin squeezes out an extra $100k a year. https://t.co/AxAt9qE34t— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) July 1, 2019
Regardless, the next question is the Islanders’ remaining key free agents: goalie Robin Lehner and captain Anders Lee.
(Friedman had something to say about Lee, too: “The Canadiens are believed to be in on Anders Lee (potentially at seven x $8 million, but Chicago has been lurking there, too.)”).
We’ve argued in these quarters that the Islanders need upgrades by addition, so it behooves them to find a way to fit Lee in even if they land Panarin.
I’ve heard nothing about Lee and Avs. Belief is he wants to stay with Isles. Panarin signing would be nice incentive to stay— Adrian Dater (@adater) July 1, 2019
With Varlamov potentially going to the Islanders, hearing that Carolina focusing its efforts on Mrazek and Lehner ....— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 30, 2019
The 31-year-old Varlamov is in an arguably weaker bargaining position than Vezina finalist Lehner, so he’d likely command less term or money than Lehner. But he also could be a bridge to a potential Islander heir apparent, KHL goalie Ilya Sorokin.
The appeal of Varlamov for #Isles -- likely cheaper than Lehner's ask and he's tight with Ilya Sorokin. Would provide a bridge to Sorokin arriving next spring and a mentor of sorts. And still plenty of room for Panarin at 12m per, plus a 3C -- someone like Colin Wilson, perhaps.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) June 30, 2019
Varlamov is coming off some down seasons with injury-abetted inconsistency to close out a five-year contract that averaged $5.9 million per year. But the case could be made he might refind his form under the Islanders goaltending coaching which helped both Lehner and Thomas Greiss, and if he we sharing a more even load with Greiss.
Flip side, of course, is Panarin/Varlamov means Lehner and Lee are headed elsewhere. Two key parts of last season's success and two extremely well-liked players among teammates and fans. Hard to say whether Varlamov could duplicate what Lehner did in 18-19.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) June 30, 2019
Regardless, it sounds like Lehner is headed out...
As of this afternoon, hearing Robin Lehner is exploring all of his options; told the Islanders have not yet circled back on him.— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) June 30, 2019
...but it’s important to remember all of the above can change. Seven hours before the Islanders were seen as a “favorite” for Panarin, the Panthers instead had been called the “front runner.”
As for Panarin, many believe Panthers remain the front-runners, but hearing the Islanders have circled back. Would they pay $12M+ AAV for him? Doesn't sound like the Rangers have that kind of appetite.— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) June 30, 2019
Fortunately, it sounds like these things may be sorted out on July 1 rather than dragging into an extra day or two. That still leaves plenty of time to dig up childhood bedroom photos for social media.