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Report: Panarin and Bobrovsky were both almost Panthers... until Luongo retirement

A tough break for the Panthers… but you won’t hear Rangers fans crying.

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It’s been over a week since stars Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky both walked out on the Columbus Blue Jackets, with the former signing a deal in free agency with the New York Rangers and the latter doing so with the Florida Panthers. The signings weren’t necessarily surprising to most hockey fans and analysts, but there were reports that the Russian pair were seeking to remain together and would sign as a “package deal”. That obviously never ended up happening and now Rangers insider Larry Brooks claims to know the reason why.

According to Brooks in a column he wrote this past weekend for the New York Post, the Rangers and Panthers were both in negotiations with Panarin, but due to some unintended effects of the Roberto Luongo retirement in Florida, the Rangers were able to up their offer for Panarin. Huh?

Here, check out this breakdown from Patrick Johnson of Vancouver-based newspaper The Province:

You may recall that days ahead of the opening of free agency, Roberto Luongo did something that nearly no other player signed to a so-called back-diving contract has done. He retired, officially.
It has been suggested in these pages that Luongo’s retirement being official was a team-driven preference. There was a need to create as much cap room as possible and while the Panthers would still incur a cap-recapture penalty if Luongo were to officially retire instead of doing what others have been doing for years — failing their training camp physical and being paid out the remainder of their salary, while living out life on long-term injury reserve — that penalty would be much less than the cap hit his contract was costing the Panthers.
Due to the math of the collective bargaining agreement’s cap recapture formula, designed to dissuade teams from signing long contracts with low-wage years at the end to gain a cap advantage, Luongo’s retirement created a US$3 million cap penalty for the Vancouver Canucks.That penalty, though, is where things appear to have gone off the rails for the Panthers.
Because he was hoping to add big in free agency but now had his budget impinged by the recapture penalty — publicly the Canucks say they were prepared, but it stands to reason that privately they were as shocked as anyone the retirement actually came in official terms, not just a long-term injury move — Canucks general manager Jim Benning decided to buy out Ryan Spooner to create a smidgen of added cap space.
The Spooner buy out had a knock-on effect. When Spooner was traded by the New York Rangers to the Edmonton Oilers — the Oilers would later flip Spooner to the Canucks — the Blueshirts agreed to retain US$900,000 of his salary on their own cap budget. The Canucks’ buyout of Spooner reduced his Rangers cap hit to US$300,000.

The $600,000 in cap space that the Canucks opened up for the Rangers was, according to Brooks, enough for the Rangers to up their offer to Panarin and ultimately convince him to sign in the Big Apple. 

Check it out: 

By the way? The $600,000 in cap space the Rangers cleared as a result of Vancouver’s buyout of Ryan Spooner represented the difference in the team being able to sign Panarin or not. Because without that $600,000, the Blueshirts were prepared to stick on their offer of $11M per, industry sources confirm.

That is a roundabout way of getting there and obviously it would have been near impossible for Panthers general manager Dale Tallon to foresee such a situation but, if nothing else, it should give GMs pause. For every move that you make or don’t make, there is ALWAYS an unintended consequence.