The New York Rangers have had an offseason filled with turnover — losing Brad Richards, Brian Boyle, Anton Stralman and Benoit Pouliot while adding Dan Boyle and Tanner Glass — so it had to be comforting to hear that negotiations are going well with last year’s leading scorer, RFA winger Mats Zuccarello.
Zuccarello’s agent, Craig Oster, reiterated his optimism Wednesday when he told the Daily News that the Newport Sports team had a “good” meeting with Gorton at last weekend’s NHL draft in Philadelphia.
Oster said Zuccarello knows the Rangers have a cap squeeze, the Blueshirts know he’s valuable, and they simply have to find a contract that fits both of their needs.
After the dust settled from the first two days of free agency, New York emerged with around $15 million in cap space to re-sign Zuccarello and fellow RFAs John Moore, Derick Brassard and Chris Kreider. While Kreider might be the most important long-term — just 23, the budding power forward had 17 goals last year and finished 10th in Calder voting — Zuccarello is the most pressing concern for the present.
The diminutive Norwegian played a huge role for the Rangers last season and did it on a tidy one-year, $1.5 million deal. He was a consistent producer both in the regular season (59 points in 77 games) and playoffs (13 in 25), all while averaging more than 17 minutes a night. At 26, he’s got plenty of quality years ahead of him and while he and Brassard will miss Pouliot — that line was New York’s best at times last season — it shouldn’t be too overwhelming a departure.
As such, the big question lingers… how much is Zuccarello going to command? Per Norwegian news outlet VG Sporten, Zuccarello is reportedly looking at a four-year pact worth $4-$5 million annually. If accurate, that really puts a dent in New York’s available money for its remaining RFAs.