A year ago, the Islanders lost John Tavares. This afternoon, the Islanders missed out on Artemi Panarin.
Failure is a feeling Islanders fans know quite well, but today’s news provoked was a unique feeling like no other. A farce was fallen for, and the Islanders will be left scrambling with nothing to fall back upon.
Artemi Panarin was supposed to end years of hardship, years of misery, years of missing out on the big free agent. But today, just like countless times in the past, the Islanders fell for the trap.
Manhattan was always the preferred destination. No amount of negotiations or promises would have swayed Panarin to joining the blue and orange. The Rangers set a hard limit of $11.5 million per year, and after a night of bargaining, Panarin was able to increase that number to $11.64 million.
This marks the second year in a row a player turned down more money to evade Long Island. However, Panarin was a new type of roller coaster. After Anders Lee and Robin Lehner appeared to be destined for new teams, the hockey world knew Lou Lamoriello was up to something.
And he was. He just failed. Signing Artemi Panarin was never a legitimate option, no matter how many Canadian media members said it was. A captain and a franchise goalie were under team control, but the glamor of signing a star distracted us all.
Sergei Bobrovsky and Panarin would have been fantastic additions to the team, but big fish hunting never ends well. When Lehner and Lee most likely take their talents to franchises who value them for their unique, individual skillsets, the Islanders will miss two of the most honorable men to ever don the blue and orange.
Lamoriello has a five-year plan, but it is hard to not be teased by last season’s historic run. The Islanders were destined for last place, laughed at those who doubted them, and proved the NHL wrong.
Can that happen again? Sure. But there must be a backup plan. Mitch Marner has been rumored to have interest in New York, but Toronto now has the adequate salary cap space to re-sign him. Michael Ferland, Marcus Johansson, Wayne Simmonds and other free agents could always be overpaid, but that is never an ideal situation.
Hopefully, the Islanders wind up better off because of this. However, for now, the wounds will be fresh. Another star, another potential cinderella story, another heartbreak.