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Panarin exits Jackets for Rangers to open NHL free agency

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New York (AFP)

Russian left wing Artemi Panarin agreed to a seven-year deal worth $81.5 million with the New York Rangers on Monday as the National Hockey League free agency signing period began.

The 27-year-old scored 28 goals and set up 59 others last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, who pulled off an upset sweep of league wins leader Tampa Bay for their first victory in an NHL playoff series, before losing in the second round to Boston.

Panarin, who was named the NHL's top rookie in 2016 with Chicago, joins a Rangers squad that missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

The Florida Panthers and New York Islanders also pursued Panarin, who snubbed a deal from the Blue Jackets to become a feature player in New York.

The Panthers are expected to land Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky while Blue Jackets forward Matt Duchene is reportedly going to Nashville.

In other early signing deals, the Vancouver Canucks signed defenseman Tyler Myers from Winnipeg and center Valtteri Filppula inked a two-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings.

Dallas reportedly has struck deals with San Jose's Joe Pavelski and Anaheim's Corey Perry.

Mats Zuccarello signed a five-year deal worth $30 million with Minnesota and Toronto landed Jason Spezza on a one-year deal for $700,000.

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