Zuccarello takes Rangers’ one year, $3.5M deal

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While a possible Wednesday salary arbitration session with Chris Kreider looms ominously for the New York Rangers, they avoided at least one messy confrontation today. The team signed Mats Zuccarello to a one-year, $3.5 million deal according to various sources including the New York Post’s Larry Brooks.

Rangers GM Glen Sather has developed a reputation for occasionally disastrous splashy free agent signings, rampant cigar chewing, and most important in this situation: tough negotiations with his restricted free agents. That seemed to come through in this situation, as Zuccarello will bring home about $1 million less than his reported asking price of $4.5 million.

That’s not a bad deal for a 26-year-old who led a roster full of far-more-expensive players in regular season scoring with 59 points in 2013-14.

(It’s also difficult to put a price on an under-sized player who prompts nicknames like “Frodo from Modo.”)

Brooks reports that the two sides are likely hoping to hammer out a longer-term deal to supplement this single-year commitment, although nothing official can be inked until the calendar turns to 2015.

Again, this is a big relief for a Rangers team that is seeing some serious turnover after giving the Los Angeles Kings a good fight in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. Sather’s work is far from done; the Bergen Record reports that a Kreider deal is unlikely to happen today (leaving either a zero-hour deal or an awkward arbitration as the two options) and Derick Brassard’s hearing takes place next Monday.

The Record points out that the Rangers haven’t seen a player go to arbitration since Nikolai Zherdev in 2009 and haven’t accepted an award since Sean Avery’s session back in 2007.

A varied scoring attack was a big reason why the Rangers went so deep into the playoffs, so locking up a significant part of that group is a big win for Sather during a trying summer.