MacKinnon said Tuesday said on TSN 1050's "Overdrive" that he tried to recruit Panarin to the Colorado Avalanche last summer before he eventually chose to go to the Big Apple. MacKinnon tried to sell him on the idea he wouldn't have to be "the man" every night, and he even offered Panarin his spot on the power play.
"I knew he was a free agent so I was kind of watching him with Columbus. What an amazing player," MacKinnon said. "And then I watched him all season - just from talking to him, really nice guy, so maybe I'm a little biased with that - but that's why I think he should win the Hart this year."
Panarin, who signed a seven-year, $81.5-million contract with the Rangers, finished tied for third in the NHL with 95 points this year, trailing only Leon Draisaitl (110), and Connor McDavid (97). He led the league with 59 points at five-on-five.
The 28-year-old led a rebuilding Rangers team to an 11th place finish in the Eastern Conference (by points percentage), which was good enough for a berth in the NHL's expanded playoff format.
Meanwhile, the Avalanche were decimated by injuries this season, but MacKinnon still posted 93 points, 43 more than anyone else on his team. Colorado finished the season with the second-best record in the Western Conference.