Mats Zuccarello is the second of two must-sign RFAs for the Rangers this summer. Zuccarello, who was probably the best non-ELC bargain in the entire league last summer, is coming off his one-year, $1.15 million deal signed last summer. This will be Zuccarello’s fourth contract, and he is arbitration eligible.
Before this year, Zuccarello and John Tortorella never seemed to click, even though Zucc was about a 40 point per season kind of player. But Zucc found his spot with Alain Vigneault, to the tune of 59 points (19-40-59) in 77 games. But with Zucc it was more than point production, it was his ability to maintain puck possession and his strength on the puck. His vision on the ice has become his greatest weapon as well.
Finding comparables for Zucc is tough. There aren’t many players who are RFAs going on their fourth contracts. Jamie McGinn is one such guy, and he got two years at $2.95 million per year. But McGinn is nowhere near as offensively talented as Zuccarello. If anything, his contract ensure Zucc gets north of $3.5 million.
Perhaps Kyle Turris is a decent comparable, who got $3.5 million a year over five years from Ottawa. They have similar offensive numbers, and Turris –like Zuccarello– struggled early on in his career. But Turris’ payday came in his third contract, not his fourth.
Valtteri Filppula got $5 million from the Red Wings for five years, but that was on the heels of a $3 million contract. Frans Nielsen got $2.75 million from the Islanders over four years, but that was before his 50 point season this year and his 50-point pace in the lockout year. David Perron is at a $3.81 million cap hit for four years, but that was with three 50-point pace seasons under his belt.
In the end, Zuccarello’s biggest enemy will be his lack of leverage. As an RFA, Glen Sather holds most of the cards. Arbitration could be Zucc’s friend, but that’s a one-year deal at Turris money (likely). Just based off some of these comparables, Zucc is looking at $3.5 million to $4 million over four or five years. Not a bad raise.