Talks between the New York Rangers and pending free agent Mats Zuccarello haven’t gotten any easier as of late. With the trade deadline fast approaching, some believe that there’s a sense of urgency here and others believe that the Blueshirts may be game to trade their top-six forward away.
The latest news out of New York is that Zuccarello and the Rangers are “not remotely close” on a contract extension.
The Rangers offered the 27-year-old winger a four year contract in the neighbourhood of $4 million to $4.25 million a year, but Zuccarello was seeking a longer term to the tune of at least $5 million a year. The team and their player have been talking recently, but nothing’s come close to closing the gap.
A year ago, Glen Sather found himself in a similar position with the likes of Ryan Callahan and he wound up trading him to Tampa after a deal wasn’t done.
This time around, the Rangers believe they’re contenders and are banking on the return of goalie Henrik Lundqvist. That means it’s likely an all hands on deck situation, with Zuccarello among those set to remain in the fold until the post-season. Both player and team like things the way they are, with the winger wanting to remain on Broadway and the Rangers obviously not wanting to part with their guy.
It’s possible that New York will let the situation simmer, upping the ante on their deal before the July 1 deadline and hopefully locking Zuccarello in.
For now, he’s averaging .61 points per game heading into Sunday’s action. He has three points in his last five games and two of those are goals.
The issue here is dollars. While there’s plenty of upside to Zuccarello, it’s also hard to justify his $5 million asking price. If that’s truly how things are shaking out, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Rangers take at least one more pass at a lower dollar amount. They could eke things up to $4.5 million and stand firm, at which point it’ll be up to Zuccarello to take it and/or go.
The other thing here is that Zuccarello will have to prove himself in the post-season if he wants to earn what he’s after. A solid playoff performance would go a long way to getting him into the position of earning big New York dollars, so that’s an area where both team and player can benefit.