Rangers take calculated risks with Brassard/Zuccarello contractsJuly 28, 2014, by
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",