The Rangers signed one of their three arbitration-bound restricted free agents, Mats Zuccarello, Tuesday night. Zuccarello, the Rangers best forward for most of the season, agreed to a one-year, $3.5 million contract. By agreeing to the one-year deal, Zuccarello can become an unrestricted free agent after 2014-15 unless the sides can agree upon an extension.
Chris Kreider is on deck, with his arbitration hearing scheduled for today, unless the sides can reach an agreement before the hearing Wednesday morning. According to Larry Brooks, Kreider is seeking $2.8 million per, while Glen Sather is standing firm at two years and an average cap hit of $2.05 million.
The Rangers still have about $9 million in cap space, but need to sign restricted free agents Derick Brassard, who is headed to arbitration himself, and John Moore, plus some other pieces. Brassard’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for Monday, July 28.
Here’s the official announcement of the Zuccarello signing, from the NYR:
RANGERS AGREE TO TERMS WITH MATS ZUCCARELLO
NEW YORK, July 22, 2014 – New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the team has agreed to terms with restricted free agent forward Mats Zuccarello.
Zuccarello, 26, registered 19 goals and 40 assists for 59 points, along with 32 penalty minutes and a plus-11 rating in 77 games with the Rangers this past season. He established career-highs in games played, goals, assists, points, plus/minus rating, power play goals (four), power play assists (13), power play points (17), game-winning goals (four), average ice time (17:08), and shots on goal (170). Zuccarello led the team in points, tied for the team lead in assists, tied for second in power play assists, ranked third in goals, tied for third in plus/minus rating and game-winning goals, ranked fourth in power play points, and finished fifth in shots on goal. Zuccarello’s 59 points were the most a Norwegian-born player has recorded in one season in NHL history. After missing the Rangers’ contest on October 24 at Philadelphia, he tallied a point in 42 of his final 70 games. Zuccarello skated in his 100th career NHL contest on December 15 vs. Calgary. He registered a career-high, six-game point streak on two occasions – from January 26 at New Jersey to February 7 at Pittsburgh (two goals, six assists), and from March 30 at Edmonton to April 10 vs. Buffalo (four goals, five assists).
At the conclusion of the regular season, Zuccarello was named the recipient of the 2013-14 Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award. The award, which is voted on by the fans, has been given annually since the conclusion of the 1987-88 season to the player who “goes above and beyond the call of duty.” The Oslo, Norway native became the third European-born player to receive the award, joining Jan Erixon (1987-88, 1990-91) and Henrik Lundqvist (2005-06).
In the 2014 Playoffs, the 5-7, 179-pounder registered five goals and eight assists for 13 points, along with 20 penalty minutes and a plus-seven rating in 25 games. He established playoff career-highs in games played, goals, assists, points, plus/minus rating, average ice time (17:40), hits (54), blocked shots (28), and shots on goal (54), and tied playoff career-highs in power play assists (three) and power play points (three). He tied for second on the team – and tied for eighth in the NHL – in plus/minus rating, tied for third on the team in assists, tied for fourth on the team in goals and points, ranked fifth on the team in shots on goal and hits, and tied for second among NHL forwards in blocked shots in the playoffs. He established single-game playoff career-highs with three assists and three points in Game 5 of the Metropolitan Division Finals at Pittsburgh on May 9.
Zuccarello has skated in 144 career NHL games, all with the Blueshirts, registering 30 goals and 63 assists for 93 points, along with 50 penalty minutes and a plus-24 rating. He has tallied nine goals on 19 shootout attempts (47.4%), including four game-deciding goals. In 2010-11, Zuccarello tied for the team lead, and tied for fourth among NHL rookies, with nine power play assists. He has tallied six goals and 14 assists for 20 points, along with 26 penalty minutes and a plus-five rating in 38 career NHL playoff games.
Internationally, Zuccarello has represented Norway in numerous tournaments, including most recently at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He skated in three games during the Olympics, leading all forwards on the team in average ice time (22:25).
Zuccarello signed with the Rangers as a free agent on March 28, 2013. He originally signed with the team as an undrafted free agent on May 26, 2010.
Photos by Getty Images.