Along with working to fix his team’s defense, the big issue at hand for New York Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton this offseason is coming to terms with restricted free agents Jesper Fast and Mika Zibanejad.
Following the NHL draft on Saturday, Gorton was asked where things stand in those talks and he said he was hoping to get something done “rather soon.”
What those contracts will look like, however, seems to be a bit of a mystery and Gorton doesn’t seem to have his mind set on any particular structure as far as it being long-term or a bridge deal.
“We’re open to anything as far as Mika. We want to make a good deal.” Gorton said (via the Daily News).
“It could be short-term, it could be long-term. We’re wide open.”
The Rangers acquired the 24-year-old Zibanejad before the 2016-17 season in the trade that sent Derick Brassard to the Ottawa Senators.
His first year on Broadway was mostly a success when he was healthy, scoring 14 goals and adding 23 assists in 56 games. That point per game average would have put him on a 54-point pace over 82 games which would have been a new career high. Zibanejad is just now entering what should be his peak years in the NHL and he’s already proven that he can be penciled in for 20 goals and 50 points every year (he’s been close to the pace for three straight years now). Given that there were only 69 forwards in the NHL that topped both 20 goals and 50 points this past season, that is easily first-or second-line production and a valuable asset.
Following the buyout of defenseman Dan Girardi and the trade of forward Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes the Rangers were able to clear out a significant amount of cap space over the past couple of weeks and currently have more than $20 million in cap space with 17 players under contract for this season. That should not only give them more than enough space to re-sign Zibanejad and Fast, but also perhaps take a run at a free agent like defenseman like Kevin Shattenkirk. They only have eight players under contract for next season.