The top free agent in the NHL market this summer is by far Artemi Panarin, the Blue Jackets' left winger that has been a consistent points machine for four seasons. The Rangers are expected to be very aggressive in trying to land him, but New York doesn't seem to be the favorite at the moment.
According to The Post's Brett Cyrgalis, the Panthers are the leading candidate to land the 27-year-old. The two main reasons Cyrgalis has the Panthers at the top is the fact that Florida doesn't have any state income taxes, and the Panthers have hired Joel Quenneville as head coach. Quennevile coached Panarin during his first two seasons with the Blackhawks.
Why does income tax matter? Florida can actually offer Panarin more than the Rangers, or even the Islanders, when it comes down to contracts. Panarin is looking to settle down with a seven-year deal at $11-12 million per season.
While Panarin may be worth that price tag, the Rangers may not be willing to shell out that much. Still, one shouldn't count out the Blueshirts, who are looking for an upgrade after Mats Zuccarello was traded to the Stars last season. It is worth noting Zuccarello is also an unrestricted free agent as well.
Panarin is the top prize, though, and the Rangers will try their best to get one of the top wingers in Madison Square Garden next season. He reportedly met with the Rangers on Wednesday, during the NHL's courting period before free agency officially kicks off.
Will that meeting be enough to lure him to New York?