The New York Rangers' top scorer will be back on Broadway for a revival this season, as it was announced by TSN's Darren Dreger that Mats Zuccarello was re-signed to a one-year deal worth $3.5 million.
Avoiding arbitration was key, because the process usually gets ugly when a team is listing reasons why a player isn't worth their asking price. That can lead to hurt feelings and an eventual departure from the franchise.
On the surface, this is an amazing deal for both Zuccarello and the Rangers, and it shows the Hobbit's willingness to be a Ranger for the foreseeable future. While the headlines will surely feature the fact that the Rangers and Zuccarello avoided arbitration with this deal, the big news comes via Larry Brooks of the New York Post.
This deal, which pays Zuccarello below market value, gives the Blueshirts financial flexibility for this season, and it will allow them to negotiate a deal with their 2013-14 top scorer that pays more money starting in 2015-16, when the salary cap could potentially jettison upward from the current figure of $69 million according to James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail.
If Zuccarello replicates his performance this season, there will be no issues when it comes to paying him, and if he stumbles, that only benefits the Rangers in negotiations.
Zuccarello's new deal gives the Rangers some security if he were to stumble this season and not come close to the 59-point season he gave the Blueshirts in 2013-14. Over the course of his career, Zuccarello has been a steady point producer—tallying 30 goals and 63 assists for 93 points in 144 games—and 2013-14 was a coming-out party for the Norwegian winger.
Had Zuccarello not been injured during the 2014 Sochi Olympics, there is a chance he could have produced at a 65-point clip. That wasn't the case, but after returning from injury, he was on fire and was one of the Rangers' top players in the postseason.
No matter how you look at this signing, it is a win for the Rangers. The salary shows that Zuccarello wants to win in New York, he is willing to work within the constraints of the Blueshirts' payroll and he is willing to take a one-year deal to prove his worth.
It may appear to be a risky situation, but when you consider his loyalty to the franchise, there's a good chance he won't take the Blueshirts to the cleaners if he lights the world on fire next season.
Why is the case? Zuccarello just had the best season of his career, and he elected to take less money from the Rangers. He would have been awarded at the very lease $1 million more in a hearing based on his statistics and value to the team, but he willingly chose to take less.
That sounds like he isn't a money chaser, but that's just me. In addition, Zuccarello elected to go to arbitration last summer to guarantee his return to the Rangers, and he even told team beat writer Jim Cerny how much the organization meant to him in an interview with Blueshirts United.
At this point, Rangers fans should be happy, because they will have one of their best players in the lineup next season on a very reasonable deal.
New York is the place he wants to be, and even though it is a one-year deal, his history with the Rangers suggests that an extension should be signed shortly after January 1, 2015, the first day teams are allowed to negotiate extensions with pending free agents.