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 Islanders are expected to be very aggressive in trying to land him, but they don'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 Islanders, or even the Rangers, 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 Islanders may not be willing to shell out that much. They are also focused on Anders Lee, their own unrestricted free agent, this offseason.
Panarin is the top prize, though, and he may have had the Islanders on his meetings list this week during the NHL's courting period ahead of free agency kick off.
Will that meeting be enough to lure him to New York?