Panarin has been a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and last month posted his support on social media for opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was arrested last month upon returning to Moscow and was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison for violating terms of his probation.
Panarin, 29, has played in the NHL since 2015 and was a finalist for the league's MVP award last season. He won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 2016 with Chicago where he played two seasons, went to Columbus for two more and then signed an $81.5 million, seven-year contract with New York in 2019.
Rangers teammate Ryan Strome praised Panarin as a person and role model for him and other young players.
“I think ‘Bread’ knows how much we love him, how much we care for him, how much we appreciate what he does for us,' Strome said. ”We wish for the best for him and obviously give him his time to get things straightened out."
Panarin leads the Rangers with 18 points on five goals and 13 assists. They next play Wednesday against Philadelphia.
Coach David Quinn said he and his players spoke about Panarin's absence before practice Monday.
“We’re going to help Artemi through this difficult time,” Quinn said. "You have to continue to unite as a team. It’s hard to overcome losing a player like Artemi from a hockey standpoint, but we’ve got to find a way to do it.”
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New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) warms up before an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. New York Rangers star Artemi Panarin is taking a leave of absence after a Russian tabloid printed allegations from a former coach that he attacked an 18-year-old woman in Latvia in 2011. Ex-NHL enforcer Andrei Nazarov is the source for the report after coaching Panarin in the Kontinental Hockey League. Nazarov says he was motivated to speak about it because he disagreed with Panarin’s repeated criticism of the Russian government. Panarin denied the allegations in a statement released by the Rangers. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)
Credit: Nick Wass
Credit: Nick Wass