If past is prologue, Mika Zibanejad’s next contract with the Rangers will likely come close to the NHL Trade Deadline. The Blueshirts current #1 center is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2022. It’s very unlikely that Chris Drury will allow him to get past that key date without a new deal in place.
Mika Zibanejad’s next Rangers contract
Zibanejad is 28 years old and although he struggled for a large portion of this season, the center finished strong. With 24 goals and 50 points in all 56 games the Rangers played this season, those numbers are impressive. Remember, his preseason battle with COVID-19 caused an early season slump that saw him notch only 9 points in his first 25 games.
Currently, Zibanejad is coming off a 5 year deal worth $5.35 million per season. When the time comes for a new deal, he will get the full 7 year term and some form of trade protection. The total AAV of the deal is expected to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000,000 per season. There’s a chance that due to the flat cap at $81.5 million for the next few seasons contract numbers league-wide could come down, but not by much. Superstars always find a way to get paid.
If Zibanejad were to hit the open market, he could get over $10 million. To date, Mika has expressed no desire to leave New York and the team’s feelings are mutual.
When will Zibanejad’s next deal come?
So the question is simple, when are the Rangers going to offer Zibanejad a new deal? Based on how they’ve handled another recent pending UFA, the trade deadline is a reasonable forecasted date.
Chris Kreider was an 11th hour extension two seasons ago. On February 24th, the day of the deadline the New York Rangers made it official by locking him up for another 7 years at $6.5M per. It came down to the wire, and the Blueshirts were hemming and hawing if the time had come to stop selling off their top players for prospects. The deal signaled the direction of the team was changing, your first official indication that the rebuild was coming to a close.
Zibanejad’s deal may not go down to the wire, but Chris Drury has to make sure he gets this right. The Rangers are out of rebuild mode and in win-now territory. But he also needs to do a few things first before just giving out $70 million. Hiring a coach is To-Do List item #1, and then he needs to reshape the roster for a playoff run.
That reshaping may still include the acquisition of a center that makes $10 million himself in Jack Eichel. Once all the dust settles, and Drury has a full understanding of where he stands cap wise, he can start negotiations with Zibanejad’s camp.
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