Rangers take calculated risks with Brassard/Zuccarello contracts

July 28, 2014, by
Elsa/Getty Images

Elsa/Getty Images

Last night, the Rangers re-signed their final arbitration eligible RFA, locking up Derick Brassard to a five-year deal at $5 million per season. This came a few days after locking up another key RFA, Mats Zuccarello to a one-year deal at $3.5 million. The reactions to the Brassard and Zuccarello contracts seem to be a bit mixed. Fans are clearly happy the players are back, but the contracts seem to be “backwards” as most have communicated.

It’s true, the Rangers took a calculated risk with Zuccarello, and a little less of a risk with Brassard. But let’s tackle the first question: Why did the Rangers give Brassard more than he was asking for in arbitration?

The answer here is simple: Arbitration for Brassard was a one-year request, and it would make him a UFA at the age of 27, where he could cash in big time from a team in need of a 2C/3C. The Rangers bought four of those UFA years, through the age of 31 (remember, Brass will be playing out his twenties in New York, not his thirties). That costs money. In fact, it only cost them $50,000 more per year for those seasons.

The next question is always about “overpayment.” First, this is the market value for Brassard. Check out his comparables (I’m looking at centers here, not wings): Mike Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec, Mikhail Grabovski, Stephen Weiss, Valtteri Filppula. Now see how they all stack up, Brass is right in the middle. Market value is market value, not your personal opinion of his value. The sooner you come to terms with this, the happier you’ll be.

The last question –about Brassard only– is whether or not this contract is a cap killer. Simply put: No, it is not. Yes, the Rangers are in a slight cap crunch this season, but they will have about $1 million in space available once John Moore re-signs (around $1.1 million) and the other appropriate roster moves are made. That’s a crunch, but it’s not a dire situation. Next season when the cap hits $75 million and then $80 million in 2016-2017, the contract will be just fine. Plus, it’s not like the Rangers have any other viable 2C options at the moment.

Now when it comes to Brassard’s deal versus Zuccarello’s deal, that’s a bit of a loaded question. Why would the Rangers re-sign Brass long-term, but only give Zucc a one-year deal?

There’s no easy answer to this one. Zucc’s contract is likely a short-term cap-friendly deal that will be extended once the calendar turns to 2015. The Rangers used this approach with Henrik Lundqvist in 07-08 under very similar circumstances. This is the probable scenario, considering how AlainVigneault started to lean on Zucc in all situations at the end of the season and in the playoffs. It requires that Zucc accept this contract, showing that understands the team need to improve as well as lock him up.

Or perhaps Zucc –who really only has one solid NHL season under his belt– was given a “show-me” deal. Show me that last year wasn’t a fluke. There are absolutely some risks here, as Chris pointed out, but it’s even riskier to give Zucc a long-term deal after one great year. I find this to be less likely, but wanted to throw it out there as a possible scenario.

In the end, the Rangers took calculated risks on both players, but they were necessary risks to improve the team for the short and long term. Brassard fills a much needed hole at center on a deal that will eventually be cheap by the time it expires. Zuccarello took a team-friendly deal with what is likely a promise to be made whole on his extension. Either way you look at it, both players needed to be back.

"Rangers take calculated risks with Brassard/Zuccarello contracts", 5 out of 5 based on 16 ratings.


  1. Bloomer says:

    The team signed Brassard for market value, looking forward to seeing him back on the roster. However, I am not a fan of long-term contracts for any hockey player.

    Players performance tends to fall off once the ink is dry and it makes it next to impossible for a team to dump that contract once its’ signed. I would advocate for a max 3 year deal for any hockey player and put an end to long-term deals. It would be better for hockey.

    • Dave says:

      I understand what you’re getting at, but Brass is 26, not 36.

      Plus, good luck getting the NHLPA agreeing to three year term limits.

      • Puck Luck (@Centerman21) says:

        There’s still no salary cap in MLB because of what the Fehr’s did when advocating for the Major League Baseball players association. As standing head of the NHLPA. I think there’s a better chance of seeing Hitler on the Democratic ticket next election than 3 year term limits. There was a 48 game season over 8 year limits, among other issues concerning the curent CBA.

        • karcotte says:

          Swiftest and most unnecessary example of Godwin’s law I’ve ever seen on the internet.

          • Bloomer says:

            Not sure what you meant karcotte until I goggled Godwin law. Excellent example indeed!

    • "The Original" Rob says:

      Honestly can’t believe that you feel that way. We all talk about how free agency is killing sports, because not too many players tend to stay with the same team any longer. There’s so much “turn around” in the NHL and all the “big four” sports, and your 3 year contracts would make that even worse.

      I miss the good old days when players would play the majority of their careers on one team. Makes one team from another much more genuine. You grow to love your team even more, and the level of competition and just the whole identity of each team get’s to be more unique along with so many other pro’s.

  2. SalMerc says:

    With Stepan our only other long-term signed center, we needed some depth and security. You pay for that. I would have preferred 3 years, but whatever.

    • Dave says:

      I’m not that concerned about term since Brass is 26.

    • Puck Luck (@Centerman21) says:

      3 years might have cost $6 mil per to get a contract signed. He’s still a kid. When the cap is $80 mil in a few years this contract and ones like it will be for some 3rd line Centerman.
      I don’t like it because it puts the team in a crunch for money but who else is playing 2nd line pivot?

  3. Walt says:


    I’m in your corner, but in this case we are looking at a 27 year old, vs someone in their early 30’s, which is usually the case!!

    As for the two deals, Slats did a good job getting them signed, and for a reasonable price, if not a bit high with Brass, but long term will be a good deal. As for Zucc, he worked with the team, and will get his due in Jan-15, with a very nice deal, and terms he was looking for.

    What we haven’t considered here, these guys are young, and if they are to be dealt down the road, the deals won’t be boat anchors for the team, and should be able to be moved easy enough!!

    • Bloomer says:

      Under the current cap structure and what cap space he had, Sather did a good job getting Kreider, Zuc and Brassard under contract. Next year unless there is a hike in the salary cap, it will be very difficult for the team to sign: Stephan, Hags, Zuc and Staal. Someone will have to go.

  4. paulronty says:

    The cap is going to hit 75 million next year? And 80 million the year after? There is a colossal assumption my friend.

    • Dave says:

      Based on current revenue numbers, those are projections made by (I believe) James Mirtle. Expect it to be +/- $2 million.

  5. Seahorse says:

    Why is the assumption the cap is gonna jump such a large number. We all thought itd be over 70 this year and that includes the new 2 billion dollar tv deal in canada. A 10% growth in your buisness over a few years is tough to do and we already have 5 outdoor games

  6. Original 6 says:

    I am just OK with this deal, but, the Rangers are paying Brassard as a 2C. If he remains their 2C, they are not talented enough to win the Cup. If the Rangers acquire a 2C or even better a 1C, Brassard making $5 million on the third line is an overpay. They didn’t have a better option than to pay Brassard, though.

    • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

      I second that. I think the team took a step back down the middle this summer. Brassard is a great 3rd center but as a 2nd he’s gonna be counted on to produce with the added mins. The team is set tho it would seem. Brassard produces in the playoffs. That had to play a part in him getting that deal he did and there’s no one else that is even close to being a 2nd center in the NHL.

      • Walt says:

        I have to jump in on this one.

        For your information, Richards played 3rd line last season for all practical purposes. Brass was our second line center, and I still think that BR was a lost cause, and the team will be better next year for buying him out!!!

        He is being paid for his worth, even if it’s a bit high. Better than $6.7 mil for an over the hill guy like BR!!

        • Chris A says:

          Actually Walt, and I couldn’t believe it either when I looked it up, Richards led all Rangers forwards in ice time during the regular season.

          It wasn’t just because he played almost a full two minutes on the PP. Richards led the team in even strength ice time as well. Here’s hoping that Stepan and Brassard can put the extra ice time they are going to get to good use.

          • TxRanger says:

            He is a better player than Richards, who was the 2c last year. Whats all the grip about?

        • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

          He is over the hill and wore down by seasons end and into the playoffs but he was the 2nd Centerman. Played more PP mins and held us in the hunt early on last year. Without his contributions we may have been so far out of the playoffs. No run could have gotten the Rangers back. Lost Nash early and Callahan and Hagelin were both out. He helped keep the Rangers on a .500 pace. Yes he’s over the hill and overpaid but for that money I don’t think he was the 3rd Centerman.

        • Original 6 says:

          Writing that Brass was 2C last year makes it much, much worse that he scored only 45 points. I would expect more than 45 point out of my 2C, wouldn’t you?. Brassard is not that young. At 27 he is about at his ceiling. He is what he is; streaky, working on his second team and unable to match up with the 2C from the league’s best teams. How does he look against Jeff Carter? Kesler? Spezza?

  7. Frank Cerbone says:

    #1 or #2 line centers are harder to acquire than right handed shots on defence. Unless your name
    is Glen Sather, then you would probably have hard time finding sand in the desert.

    O’Reilly & Stasny were 2nd rd picks, well though of prior to the NHL draft, ignored by Sather, and both signed by Colorado. Sather instead, chose injury prone Michael Sauer, Marc Staal, & Chris Kreider over OReilly & Stasny.

    Sauer was a wasted pick, as he was inury prone all thru juniors.

    Staal has been a solid player, not quite as good as Stasny though.

    OReilly is a different player than Kreider, but he is a better player, with a longer history of

    So I don’t have a problem with Brassard getting
    the money he got. His age is right, contract
    length is good, production for a combo checking/scoring center is OK.

    Rangers need to resign these 25-27 yr olds with
    upside for long term deals. Unfortunately,
    Staal is not one of them. Franson 26, 6-5, 215
    a top 4 defenseman, very physical, very low PM
    totals, almost identical scoring to Boyle last year, AND MAKES ONLY $2 mil compared to Boyles
    $4.5 mil each year for 2 years

    • supermaz says:

      I’ll take Staal and Kreider over O’Reilly and Stastny any day.

    • "The Original" Rob says:

      Sauer was a beast! Would of been one of our top four D-men for years, if it weren’t for that nasty hit by Phanuef. With respect Frank, you’re making it sound as if he was a bad pick and a lemon. Unfortunately the kid hit some bad luck there. We all loved him.

  8. Frank Cerbone says:

    Having problems with keyboard….keys sticking
    & it should say re-sign their younger players to
    long term contracts and not resign as in resignation.

  9. Becky says:


  10. cv19 says:

    5M for a guy who has never scored 20 goals or 50 points? At least all the “comps” did that at some point in their careers. He has not shown yet that he is a 2C. He was in the right place at the right time as the Rangers do not have anyone better for the 2C slot.
    His lack of consistency has always bothered me. I had the same issue with Zucc’s game prior to this year yet he came around. Maybe Brassard will as well. I’ll hold my breath.

    • Dave says:

      He was 48th in scoring among centers last year. That pretty much makes him a 2C, no?

      • cv19 says:

        Not for a Cup contender. And as you well know it’s not just about points. He brings few intangibles and hockey is a sport where intangibles really mean something. He’s young, hopefully he’ll improve. Obviously, Sather signed him because he sees an upside. Yet, he still hasn’t matched the point total of his rookie season.

        • Dave says:

          Not for a Cup contender? This team JUST went to the Finals.

          • TxRanger says:

            He’s talking about this upcoming season, Dave. Brass was the third line center when they got to the finals. I disagree with him, but you can’t skew his argument to make yourself right. You have to argue against the point he makes. You can’t do that if you misrepresent it.

            • Dave says:

              That line is what everyone called the “de facto top line” all throughout the playoffs. So….pick one, because trying to make a point for both is contradictory.

          • Original 6 says:

            And probably would have gotten beat by 2-3 teams from the West. Throw an improved Dallas and Anaheim into the mix. Which top Western Conference team do the Rangers match up with down the middle with Brass as 2C when we already give up so much at the 1C?

            • Chris A says:

              Thankfully, there are 5 other players on the ice besides the center. Just because center is the “hot” position and teams are overpaying like crazy for them doesn’t mean it’s the end all, be all for a team.

              The Rangers have the best goalie in the league and a top 5 D unit, possibly the best D unit in the league. Stepan is fine as a 1C, his playmaking and defensive play are good enough. Brassard is a fantastic playmaker with a great shot, pretty much all the attributes necessary to be an NHL caliber 2C.

              For the Rangers the difference makers reside on the wings. Nash, St. Louis, Kreider, Zucc and Hagelin are an excellent group of wingers to build your top two lines from.

              • Dave says:

                Ehhh, depth down the middle wins, not necessarily depth on the wings.

                I’m comfortable with Brass as a 2C as long as Miller shows he can be the 3C.

                In the end, it doesn’t matter because Slats really had no options this summer.

              • Chris A says:

                Yes, Dave, depth is important, but depth down the middle doesn’t necessarily mean trotting out Forsberg/Sakic or Yzerman/Federov, right?

                What I meant was that Stepan/Brassard is adequate when supported by (potentially) high scoring wingers. Neither player hurts you in any of the three zones. If Miller sorts out his defensive deficiencies he can easily have as much impact as a tortoise-slow Brad Richards had last season.

          • cv19 says:

            How did you misunderstand what I said?

            I know we JUST went to the Cup finals. We ALL know that. Going forward i’m not sure he’s capable of carrying the load of a 2. Point is, he wasn’t necessarily our #2. Now he is and he’ll have to produce like a 2. 45 points doesn’t cut it.

            Now it’s time to prove you right.

            • Chris A says:

              Well, based on ice time, Brassard was the #2 center in the playoffs.

              I think Brassard will be fine and easily eclipse his career highs this season. I am hoping Brass and Zucc skate with Nash instead of Pouliot this coming season and all three should have huge years.

              And 45 points was good enough for fourth on the team in scoring. That’s #2 center production.

  11. supermaz says:

    The general consensus seems to have little love for Derick, personally I love watching him play. He plays with skill, emotion, and seems to be having fun out there (who wouldn’t playing with Zucc) I think he will earn this contract, and make all Rangers fans happy he’s playing at MSG.

    • Original 6 says:

      All valid points, Supermaz. I would love watching him score 60 points instead of 45.

  12. Kevin mccarthy says:

    I understand the locking in for cap protection. Why give a no trade? What if he gets hurt or falls flat?

    • Chris A says:

      Brassard was likely given a limited no trade so he couldn’t just be dumped on a “salary floor” team later on.

      I had not seen that the Rangers front-loaded the hell out of Brass’ deal, only $3.5M in salary for each of the last two years of the deal. It makes this an even better contract as front-loaded deals are really easy to trade if the need arises, hence the limited NTC.

  13. bernmeister says:

    Was smart to retain investment, provided:

    a) have enough for max ELC for Kevin Hayes
    b) Brass’ NMC/NTC is limited enough for club to have options if needed.