Mika Zibanejad is staying on Broadway. The 28-year old first line center got his wish when he and the Rangers reached agreement on an eight-year extension that’ll keep him in New York City through 2030.
The reported new contract that doesn’t start until ’22-23 is worth an average cap hit of $8.5 million. Set to enter the final year of his original deal that pays him an AAV of $5.35 million until the conclusion of the ’21-22 season, it was important to Zibanejad to re-sign with the only team he wants to play for. Broken by the New York Post’s Larry Brooks yesterday, the new contract includes a full no-movement clause (NMC) until seven days before the trade deadline in the final season (’29-30).
While the term might not be great along with the usual NMC that gives Zibanejad the security he wanted, the value is very fair. To get him signed long-term for between eight and nine million over that period is excellent value. He took less to stay for more term. That’s exactly how such a contract is negotiated. Credit goes out to Rangers Team President and GM Chris Drury and Zibanejad for being able to hammer this out before the new season kicks off Tuesday in Washington DC. As usual, there’s a signing bonus as part of the contract along with a base salary for every year. Cap Friendly has the full breakdown.
In fact, 60 of the $68 million is front loaded. The signing bonus money totals $60 million while the base salary equals $8 million. Considering that the Panthers had just re-signed top center Aleksander Barkov for similar money with the younger player getting an average cap hit of $10 million that’ll take him to age 34 in the tax free state of Florida by committing $72 million in signing bonuses of the $80 million he’ll earn thru 2030, it’s routine for teams to break down the salary as easy as possible. It’s good business.
For Zibanejad, who enters his sixth season with the Rangers where he’s recorded 283 points (136 goals, 147 assists) over 323 games, the time is now for the affable Swede who was named to his country’s Olympic team, to prove he’s worth the investment. A very gifted player who the Rangers acquired from the Senators for popular former playoff hero Derick Brassard that involved an exchange of ’18 picks (second round to NYR for seventh round) on July 18, 2016, Zibanejad has become a vital core piece. A well respected player teammates love in the locker room with a recent MSG feature highlighting line mate Chris Kreider admitting he’d go to battle for him, it was obvious how much he means to the team.
It’s the right move. Of course, any time you sign a player for such a long term, there’s a risk involved. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Zibanejad can stay healthy and continue to be productive for at least the first five years of the contract. That includes his age 28 season which we sure hope includes the playoffs. He turns 29 on April 18, 2022.
That could mean meaningful hockey at The Garden for the first time since 2017. That’s the last time they were in the postseason. It included a huge goal from Zibanejad in sudden death to beat the Canadiens in a pivotal Game Five up at Bell Centre. The Rangers took the closely fought first round series in six. Unfortunately, the second round had a cruel ending with Zibanejad’s former team ousting the Blueshirts in six to effectively end a successful era of Rangers hockey. They’ve been rebuilding ever since.
The best part is Zibanejad left money on the table. He could’ve gotten more next summer. Maybe a big year like the one he had in ’19-20 would’ve pushed his market value to over $10 million. The run he had which was highlighted by the memorable five- goal game in a mesmerizing 6-5 overtime win at MSG, remains a brilliant performance. And he Capped it off in style by winning it on a backhand top shelf. Probably the last time I’ll ever go to a home game.
With Gerard Gallant holding off on naming a captain at least for now, I wouldn’t be surprised if they reveal Zibanejad as the new captain on Thursday night in the home opener versus the Stars. Would you really feed the media what they want? Especially Brooks. I think it would be a nicer touch to do it at home in front of a big crowd. It makes more sense than having six alternates. I smell a smokescreen. Let’s hope I’m right.
If they do announce a captain for the first time since Ryan McDonagh, it’s gotta be either Zibanejad or Kreider. They’ve both been around long enough to remember 2017. Kreider is the longest tenured, having been a Broadway Blueshirt since the 2012 NHL Playoffs. He’s been through the playoff grind. It makes perfect sense to give it to an experienced player who’s got the pulse of the room. Those are my top choices.
Tomorrow, I’ll get to the roster. That’ll be interesting. I have a different perspective on what they decided. More positive. Until then, peace.