Panarin on leave as Rangers call Russian assault allegation 'fabricated'
Panarin's former KHL coach, Andrei Nazarov, said the winger got into a physical altercation with an 18-year-old woman in Latvia in 2011 and "sent her to the floor with several powerful blows," Sports.ru wrote Friday, according to a translation provided to ESPN's Emily Kaplan.
"Artemi vehemently and unequivocally denies any and all allegations in this fabricated story," the Rangers said in a statement. "This is clearly an intimidation tactic being used against him for being outspoken on recent political events.
"Artemi is obviously shaken and concerned and will take some time away from the team. The Rangers fully support Artemi and will work with him to identify the source of these unfounded allegations."
Nazarov, who played 12 NHL seasons, also claims that an unnamed person paid a "sum of $40,000 Euro cash" to stop the case against Panarin.
The forward has publicly criticized the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin. In January, the 29-year-old showed his support for opposition leader Alexei Navalny with a post captioned "freedom for Navalny" in Russian.
The 5-foot-11 winger ranked third in league scoring with 95 points over 69 games last season, finishing third in Hart Trophy voting.
Panarin has tallied five goals and a team-best 18 points over 14 contests this campaign.