Should The Leafs Trade For Artemi Panarin?

We’re into the dog days of summer now, but these quiet days make for plenty of speculation amongst fans and insiders alike.

Last night, Elliotte Friedman appeared on NHL Tonight and tossed around the idea of the Leafs being interested in Columbus Blue Jackets forward Artemi Panarin. 2017-18 saw Panarin put up a career-best 82 points in 81 games (27G 55A) with the Blue Jackets, though Panarin has also made it known that he is not willing to negotiate an extension with the Blue Jackets, meaning that one of two scenarios are possible: Panarin plays out the 2018-19 season with Columbus before becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent, or he is traded.

So now, the question that is always posed is asked once more…

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How Does This Affect The Leafs?

Particularly with the acquisition of John Tavares this summer, the Toronto Maple Leafs have entered Win Now mode. It’s official.

A trade to acquire Artemi Panarin, if cheap enough, would put an already hilarious group of forwards thoroughly over the top for next season. Beyond what any other team could hope to compete with. Full-stop.

Beyond that, there’s the aforementioned fact that Panarin has just one year remaining on his $6M AAV deal, meaning that the Leafs could use him as a season-long rental before letting him walk when they need to allocate that money towards their budding stars like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

Panarin As A Leaf, At A Glance:


Look at this beautiful cap-compliant forward group!

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This hypothetical includes a $6M annual cap hit for current RFA William Nylander, with Panarin slotting in on the “first-line” left wing, while Zach Hyman drops down to a beautifully annoying shutdown line with Nazem Kadri and Kasperi “That’s Kappy” Kapanen.

This team would also still possess $2,700,000, without Nathan Horton going to LTIR.

The downside to this is, of course, the fact that the Big Three will likely all have big seasons playing with this cast of forwards, and thus will all likely hit their performance bonuses. Which is great; success is something we should want.

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However, the added bonuses would likely easily exceed this year’s salary cap, thus resulting in Nathan Horton having to hit LTIR once again. Once that’s said and done, this year’s bonuses would be applied to next year’s salary cap, per the CBA, thus making things dicier once the Leafs will be paying all of the Big Three the Big Bucks.

TL;DR: Can the Leafs make it work cap-wise? Yes. Without future risk? Not likely.

The Downside

The above risks, of course, hypotheticals. What’s not a hypothetical is that the Leafs remain scary thin on the back end. An injury or an off-season to a defenseman could spell real trouble, even with the stacked group they already boast up front. At the end of the day, the Leafs would be wise to be shopping for an affordable steady defenseman to bolster the back end if Kyle Dubas is looking to make any moves at this time.

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The Take-Away

We can dream about Artemi Panarin. We can have fun. After all, it’s the offseason. That being said, even Silly Season must be approached with caution and a more balanced outlook. While Artemi Panarin as a Toronto Maple Leaf would likely lead to an even greater explosion of offense, the cap implications and risks on defense could spell danger.


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  • Matmarwill

    I think that this is probably a ‘pass on this one’. Firstly, the leafs need to maintain enough cap space, below ltir, to cover those mm performance bonuses, about 3.5m, i believe. Secondly, any spare cap space after that, should be reserved for addressing the leafs real need, and that’s defense.

    The buds have enough offense, and dont need paranin. Their lineup as of right now:

    Johnsson + Matthews + Nylander
    Hyman + Tavares + Marner
    Marleau + Kadri + Kapanen
    Leivo + Lindholm + Brown
    Reilly + Oshiganov
    Gardiner + Dermott
    Hainsey + Zaitsev

    • Drapes55

      Don’t expect Oshiganov to make the team this year. I think he’ll struggle adjusting and end up playing a year in the A like Borgman and Rossen before he plays with the big club. The back end probably looks allot like last year
      Reilly – Hainsey
      Gardiner – Zaitsev
      Dermott – Holl
      And Carrick rotating in as the 7th D

      • ballballrun

        Ozhiganov is older than borgman, played twice as many pro games (300 to 150, plus another 50 playoff games), and all of his games were in the K, whereas most of Borgman’s games were in the Alsvenskan, not the SEL/SHL. Ozzie WILL BE BETTER than Borgman. And Carrick. And Holl (my personal fave). But don’t expect to play up top with Reilly, that is a dream. But we will see, becasue this year is gonna be fun…

  • mst

    Here’s a news flash Matthewsline is not number 1. Given that Marner is better than Matthews, and Nylander and Tavares is better than Matthew’s and Nylander, stop calling the Matthew’s line #1. Its just pathetic.

  • mst

    Pts/60 all situations regular season + playoff i.e. all available data from last season Marner=3.20, Matthews=3.13 Nylander= 2.64. Marner#1. BTW if you ignore Tavares’ PK time his pts/60 was 3.24. Marner+Tavares>>Matthew’s +Nylander.

  • Jroc

    In a vacuum Sure, why the hell not. Panarin is awesome. In reality they should really save their assets to address the backend. Seriously though that top 6ix is like something from an all star game.

  • Kuwait

    Players/contracts would have to go the other way. Johnsson and kapanen will also do well this year and will need to get paid. Instead of playing 3rd and 4th line minutes, they could be used to acquire Panarin. Leivo and ennis could easily slide into 3rd and 4th line roles. Ennis has proven offensive upside. Panarin still slides onto the first line. Hyman still slides to 3rd line. Brown on kadri’s Line instead of kapanen. Nobody stops a line with nylander Mathews and Panarin. Marner tavaras and Marleau would also be tough to stop. Kadri’s line plays even or + against anybody. The 4th line has leivo, ennis, and grundstrum to choose from for wingers. All of them are more than ready to log better than 4th line minutes.