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As you all probably know, Mats Zuccarello's arbitration hearing is July 31st. If he and the New York Rangers can't strike a deal by then, the two will go through the hearing process in which a third party will give the two sides the appropriate salary. Since this is a player-elected arbitration, the Rangers can walk away from the number and make Zuccarello an UFA.
So here's the big question: Will the Rangers and Zuccarello go to arbitration?
The list of players heading to arbitration is shrinking by the day, as teams come to terms with those players before the hearing. It's expected the Rangers and Zuccarello are going to be doing the same thing. If reports can be believed, the two sides are pretty close and Zuccarello has already admitted that he's not even looking for $2-million a year.
Personally? I can see the two sides coming to a three-year, $5-million dollar deal. The Rangers might have an ability to lock up Zuccarello longer term here (I would say three years is "longer" term) and the above deal would be worth $1.6-million a year. That's within Zuccarello's wheelhouse and if he turns into a 40-point player (which is possible) that's more than fair for the Rangers.
I think the two sides might be more negotiating over length than the actual dollars. Remember, with players like Zuccarello the longer the contract the less money the Rangers are dishing out. I think between $1.3-1.7-million is more than fair for Zuccarello, especially if it's a multiyear deal.
Will the Rangers let it get that far? Do they even want to let it get that far? Zuccarello has been a pretty nice addition to this team, especially with his cap hit. Last year he made a bigger impact than some expected, and he was one of the Rangers better players in the playoffs. He has a ton of use and he obviously loves it in New York since he agreed to come back rather than take more financial security in the KHL last season. The Rangers might not want to toy with him any more than they already have, and arbitration can sometimes get dicey.
The Rangers might not want to play that game. So if they want to avoid it, they need to sign Zuccarello before the 31st. That shouldn't be that much of an issue, since there's time, but you know how these things go sometimes.