Rangers can re-sign Mats Zuccarello starting tomorrow, but it won’t be an easy decision

Starting tomorrow, the Rangers will be allowed to sign Mats Zuccarello to a contract extension in accordance with a clause in the CBA that prevents teams from re-signing their players until January 1 after they agreed a one-year pact during the summer.

Zuccarello inked a one-year, $3.5 million deal in July despite interest by both sides in a longer term commitment, but the team had precious little cap space, so there was a general understanding that they would revisit a multi-year deal once the new year hit. The Blueshirts were in a similar situation with Henrik Lundqvist back in 2007-2008, and they worked out a six-year, $41.25 million contract by mid-February.

The decision on Zuccarello’s future is more difficult than it was with The King. The all-time leading scorer amongst Norwegian-born players has admitted that his contract is weighing on his mind, but the Rangers might not be in a hurry to ease those concerns.

Though Zuccarello is a fan favorite and a creative player with outstanding vision, he’s occupying one of the key top-six wing spots that are suddenly very crowded. Rick Nash is a lock for one of those positions going forward, and Chris Kreider will also be given more time to round out his game. Talented youngsters J.T. Miller, Anthony Duclair and Pavel Buchnevich all also figure to be in the mix for permanent jobs going forward. The one wild card is Martin St. Louis.

The 39-year-old winger is still very productive and has made it clear he wants to finish his career in New York, but he’s also set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. One would think the Rangers and St. Louis have an understanding that they’ll reach a series of short deals to keep him on Broadway as long as it’s beneficial for both sides, a la Teemu Selanne in Anaheim over the last several seasons. But St. Louis’ status could have a direct impact on Zuccarello.

Obviously it’s easy to see parallels between the two, starting with their size and extending to their similar roles as playmakers and power play specialists. Zuccarello has the huge advantage of being 12 years St. Louis’ junior, but St. Louis comes with a championship pedigree that is invaluable, especially when you consider the relative youth of the aforementioned wingers that figure to be his teammates moving forward.

It’s not that Glen Sather wouldn’t want to keep Zuccarello, but with a major payday due to Derek Stepan this summer, and potentially Marc Staal (or his replacement), cap room will be awfully tight.

Sather could deal Zuccarello before the trade deadline, but the return for an expiring contract isn’t going to be great, especially since Zuccarello figures to be interested in seeing what he could command on the open market if he doesn’t remain in New York. Plus, though some of those young wingers figure to make an impact over the next few seasons, none of them are would match Zuccarello’s contributions for this year’s playoff run.

Sather will likely stew on this decision for the next few weeks before deciding whether to dive into negotiations or pursue a Plan B, but eventually, something has to give.

What do you think the Rangers should do with Zuccarello?

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  • Zucc should be signed for 5 years, at $4-$.5 mil. That length is doable, and the cap hit is reasonable as well. Should the new kids prove to be as good as all the press, then we can move him for other assets if need be. If all the press proves to be hot air, well Zucc will still be a Ranger!!

    • Agreed with Walt. I understand we have youth coming in over the next few seasons, but lock zucc up to a reasonable cap hit, and then down the road if we want to move him, he’d fetch a bigger return bc he’d have term on his contract. Let him be a hold over until we really see what we have in Duclair and Buchnevich next season. Sign him now and if we move him at next years deadline, I bet he’d get us a nice piece or two

    • Pouliot looks to have set that market, and Zucc is better. Pouliot got 4 yrs and $20 miillion. I’d expect Zucc to get an extra year at that yearly amount.

      • I don’t necessarily agree Dave, Oilers have to overpay to get players and most of the league knows it. Will Zuc and his agent use that for negotiating purposes? Probably but I don’t think it gets them anywhere realistically speaking.

        5 years, $5M per sounds more than fair for both sides. I think Zuc is 27? He’s a late bloomer so 5 years sounds about right.

  • Zuccarello will be resigned below market, in my view. He wants to be a Ranger and has demonstrated that each step of his career with the Rangers. I think this will be a relatively easy contract negotiation at a fair price to Mats and the Rangers.

  • Zucc resigns for a very cap friendly deal. My guess is that he gets a huge signing bonus or first year of five with dollars declining to compensate him for the home town discount he regularly provides. He is the best PP forward by far and he is a willing combatant. He needs to be kept and believe he will.

  • Think it comes down to a Zuc vs. Hagelin question this summer. With Nash, MSL and Kreider established as scoring winngers and Duclair, Miller and Buch coming up to provide cheap production in the top 9. There’s already a log jam. Zuc is the more skilled player and a tremendous distributor but Hags provides the speed / defense.

    I’d guess that Zuc is the preferred one and hopefully he can come in at around 4-4.5 AAV but I could also seeing him being bid away at $5+ AAV

  • This team has to start playing some younger players on rookie deals to offset all the players that are being overpaid in order to fit under the cap. That necessitates looking at all players and seeing who they need to keep and who they can live without. Right now Zuc is one of their best forwards. The player I’d be more apprehensive about giving a long term deal to is Stepan with his subpar corsi numbers. All I ask Sather though is identify who you want to keep and trade the rest. If we have to lose Zuc because of the cap, we better get something of value back.

  • It’s hard to think that we were in the finals last year and this summer we may not have so many of the players that got us there. I still miss Prust!

  • Resign him for 5M x 4 year.

    Brassard has been great so far this season. BUT when GS can pay Brassard 5M per year… GS should pay Zuccarello the same salary per year.

    Brassard is good, but 5M-player? NO! More like 4,5 – 4,7M per year.

    I think Zuccarallo is a better player than Brassard, best passer on the team, maybe the best player to handle the puck in the team. And he always give 100% on the ice.

    • I don’t disagree Ryan but brass is solid at all aspects of the game compared to zuccs. Zucc as I stated earlier is great but I think brass is better fit for our lineup

  • we New Yorkers love our homegrown talent…I love Zucc as much as the next guy by $5 million a year is too much for him.

    He’s a 40 point player that is undersized…I would go with 5 years at $4 mill.

  • I don’t expect much support for this view of mine. I grew up a Giant fan in Brooklyn when we argued in the school yard (PS202) the relative merits of Mays, Mantle and the Duke till we were blue in the face. The thing is, the players spent their careers as Yankees, Giants or Dodgers. I know it was pre-Curt Flood, and players were more or less indentured slaves, but man, I love that sort of player/team identity. I think winning isn’t everything. I want our team to stay together. Sign them all for next year. If Marty gets too old, I’ll come to Fan Recognition Day to say goodbye.

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