In his Sunday column, Larry Brooks explored whether or not the New York Rangers could keep Mats Zuccarello in their plans after signing free agent Benoit Pouliot. He talked about how the Rangers need money to re-sign guys like Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin and Justin Falk before Glen Sather can turn his signs onto Zuccarello with whatever money is left.
We already know that McDonagh's contract has been taken care of. Sather inked his star defenseman to a six-year pact on Monday, allowing Rangers fans all around the world to exhale. So one of the most important pieces this offseason is locked up.
Sather has already said he plans to bring back all four of the team's RFAs. Zuccarello falls into that category. And while the Rangers might not have a ton of money to maneuver right now (assuming most of their current space is used on Stepan and Hagelin), there might be a trade or two on the horizon.
A lot of fans seem to think Brian Boyle is going to be traded. That's probably not the case. Boyle has far more value to this team right now than he would on the trade market, which makes it really hard to trade him because he would leave a void in the lineup and his return would probably be minimal. A guy like Taylor Pyatt might be on the block, which would save the Rangers $1.5 million if they didn't take any salary back. And depending on how much of the remaining $7.3-million pool Sather uses on Stepan and Hagelin, that might be enough to keep Zuccarello around.
I do expect Stepan to make anywhere from $3.5-$4-million depending on the length of the contract. Sather could probably hardball Stepan to closer to $3-million, but I don't see that happening to be honest. If Stepan makes $3.5-million, that would leave the Rangers with $3.8-million to re-sign Hagelin, Zuccarello and Falk. There's not a ton of wiggle room there if any at all.
Zuccarello is a RFA, so if another team were to sign him the Rangers would be entitled to compensation if they didn't match. Our friends Winging It In Motown had last year's compensation figures and I expect them to remain around the same this year.
$1,110,249 or below - No Compensation
Over $1,110,249 to $1,682,194 - 3rd round pick
Over $1,682,194 to $3,364,391 - 2nd round pick
Over $3,364,391 to $5,046,585 - 1st round pick, 3rd
Over $5,046,585 to $6,728,781 - 1st round pick, 2nd, 3rd
Over $6,728,781 To $8,410,976 - Two 1st Round Picks, 2nd, 3rd
Over $8,410,976 - Four 1st Round Picks
Zuccarello could easily garner something between $1.6-$3.3 million, which would give the Rangers a 2nd round pick as compensation. Anything less than the $1.6 I can't see the Rangers not matching. Also keep in mind the Rangers can go 10% over the cap during the summer, so they can sign Zuccarello (or even match a contract) and then figure out what to do later.
I think Zuccarello was a big part of the Rangers late playoff run last year. And his presence on the power play and in the bottom six is invaluable for a team that's had issues getting offense from the bottom of the lineup (although he might see top six minutes depending on how long Hagelin and Ryan Callahan are out to start the year).
It does seem like there are some decisions to be made right now, especially if you expect J.T. Miller, Chris Kreider and Danny Kristo to make the team out of camp. Arron Asham and Darroll Powe were already waived to make some room, but it might not be enough to fit everyone.
We'll get into that later, especially since that's a problem Sather doesn't have to worry about right now. The current focus should be on Stepan, then Hagelin and then Zuccarello.