Rangers, Zuccarello have ‘good’ initial contract talks

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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.

From the New York Daily News:

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.