Greetings and salutations everyone and welcome to a quick news update here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. One of my questions from Saturday night’s blog was answered early Sunday morning, as the Rangers inked Mika Zibanejad for eight more seasons.
From what it looks like, this deal was pretty much agreed to earlier this week, with the confirmation of the deal coming Sunday morning. Both the Rangers and Zibanejad had statements and pictures ready to go once the announcement was made public.
Of note, and before continuing to comment on this major breaking news, here’s last night’s blog, where I recapped the Rangers final game of the preseason and included a 2021-22 season preview:
Rangers Finish Preseason with a Thrilling Victory; Ace Isles Litmus Test, “Baby Blueshirts” Impress, Chytil’s Hat Trick, Kakko = NYR’s Preseason MVP; Sjoberg, “Trouba The Terrible” Strikes Again, Injuries, Rangers Season Preview & More
Last night, and as talked about by Larry Brooks on this week’s episode of “Up in the Blue Seats”, everything regarding Mika Zibanejad’s contract negotiations had been tight-lipped. This allowed both fans and reporters alike to speculate on what the Rangers would do this season and beyond, where once again, those dirty words of “Jack Eichel” were peppered into these stories.
With Mika extended for eight more seasons, where he’s now under Rangers control until the year 2030 (2030, doesn’t that seem so far away?), this pretty much pops the balloon on the Eichel to the Rangers rumors.
Of course, that’s not to say that a trade won’t happen, but it’s highly unlikely the Sabres trade their biggest trade piece to the Rangers while retaining 50% of Eichel’s salary – which is what the Sabres would have to do in order to make such a trade happen.
That said, this is about Mika Zibanejad and not about Jack Eichel.
Here’s the Rangers official press release regarding this extension, courtesy of https://www.nhl.com/rangers/news/rangers-agree-to-terms-with-mika-zibanejad/c-326730424?icmp=int_web_nyr_ziba-extension_DL_211010 :
New York Rangers President and General Manager Chris Drury announced today that the team has agreed to terms with Mika Zibanejad on an eight-year contract extension.
“Since joining the team in 2016, Mika has emerged as one of the premier players in the NHL,” Drury said. “In addition to being a great player on the ice, Mika is an exemplary person off of the ice. We are fortunate to have him as part of our Rangers organization and are excited that he will continue his career in New York.”
Zibanejad, 28, skated in 56 games with the Rangers last season, registering 24 goals and 26 assists for 50 points, along with 18 penalty minutes. He led the Rangers in goals, game-winning goals (seven), and shots on goal (171), and ranked second on the team in points in 2020-21.
The 6-2, 200-pounder has skated in 604 career NHL games over parts of 10 seasons (2011-12 – 2020-21) with Ottawa and the Rangers, registering 200 goals and 234 assists for 434 points, along with 173 penalty minutes. Zibanejad has played five seasons with the Blueshirts (2016-17 – 2020-21), tallying 136 goals and 147 assists for 283 points in 323 games. He has skated in 31 postseason games in his NHL career, registering five goals and 14 assists for 19 points. In addition, the Stockholm, Sweden native will represent his country at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Zibanejad was acquired by the Rangers from Ottawa on July 18, 2016. He was originally selected by the Senators in the first round, sixth overall, of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
As is Rangers protocol, the financial terms of the deal were not disclosed by the team. However, as first reported by Larry Brooks, and then confirmed by everyone else, the deal is worth $68M overall and carries an AAV of $8.5M.
Here’s Zibanejad on the deal:
Obviously, as a result of this Zibanejad extension, there are many different takes out there. There are also familiar talking points everywhere you go, including the stuff on Eichel that I included above.
To me, this is a good deal. If there’s one point I have always consistently hammered on this site, it’s that when it comes to trying to win the Stanley Cup, you can’t overpay a goalie – you have to overpay an elite center.
Mika, especially if you consider the fact that COVID-19 impacted his 2020-21 season, has been an elite center for some time now. He’s easily a top ten center in the league, if not among the top five. In addition, not only is Zibanejad a proficient goal scorer – he’s very valuable defensively, especially on the penalty kill.
When you compare the other contracts that have been signed during this off-season, especially the recent contract that Aleksander Barkov just signed with Florida ($80M overall/$10M AAV), this deal is a great compromise.
Sure, Mika probably could’ve got more money on the open market, where perhaps he could’ve even received a deal up to $10M per season. Sure, the Rangers would’ve liked less years, where they probably would’ve liked to agree to a six-year deal. However, just like any successful negotiation, both parties have to give a little to get a lot, and that’s what the Rangers and Zibanejad did here.
As stated last night, it’s my opinion that Rangers general manager Chris Drury has done a good job thus far. Making a decision on Mika before the season starts confirms my thoughts. Whether you agree or not on this Mika extension, Drury went all-in here and didn’t show an ounce of indecisiveness.
The Rangers, Drury and Mika could’ve let this drag on right up until the trade deadline, where as we’ve seen with other players, could’ve effected Mika’s play on the ice. In addition, with the Rangers looking to make the playoffs this season, trading Mika, in an attempt to prevent an Islanders/Tavares situation, would’ve been counter-productive to that goal.
With this deal now out of the way, Mika can just focus on hockey and not worry about anything else. It’s all about performing well and making the playoffs now. There will be no contract distractions.
And to be clear and to reiterate something I said last night – there’s no way Drury can be judged right now. You’ll have to wait until the end of the season to start doing that.
If you’re a glass half-full person, and think this deal is good one like I do, look no further than to Ryan McDonagh when supporting this line of thinking.
Prior to the Tampa Bay Lightning winning their two Stanley Cups, when the Rangers extended Chris Kreider right before the 2020 trade deadline, I said that while the Rangers may be overpaying at the back-end of the deal, as long as they win one Stanley Cup, no one will care. I also said the same thing when the Lightning extended Ryan McDonagh.
While Kreider (and now Mika) are waiting for their Stanley Cup, the Lightning, who probably will have issues with McDonagh’s contract in the latter years of it, have already received their monies worth and more, in the form of those two Stanley Cups.
Yes, there may be some buyer’s remorse with Kreider’s deal. (Had the Rangers known they were going to win the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery and select Alexis Lafreniere, perhaps the Rangers don’t go all-in on Kreider.) However, with Zibanejad, the Rangers don’t have any elite or top center in their system, especially when compared to the depth of wingers currently signed by the franchise.
I know the Eichel talk gets redundant and is overkill, but if it wasn’t going to be Eichel, it had to be Mika. No offense to Ryan Strome, but he’s not an elite or a first line center. And while some people may have high hopes for Filip Chytil – he’s not Zibanejad either.
You simply need a top-of-the-line center to be successful in the NHL. Mika is one of those guys. Plus, for people worrying about the back end of Mika’s contract, the salary cap should increase big-time once this current COVID-impacted CBA expires.
And as I have always said on this site, especially during my previous talking points regarding Henrik Lundqvist and his contract that I deemed to be bad – look at the cap percentage that these contracts take up, and not just the money.
In short here, Mika’s $8.5M AAV, which begins with the 2022-23 season, isn’t the same as the $8.5M Lundqvist once received. At the contract’s peak, Lundqvist took up 13.22% of the cap, and that was at the goaltender position, a goaltender position where we are seeing cheap goalies and back-ups succeed more and more.
Zibanejad’s new deal will take up 10.43% of the salary cap at its peak and that number will just decrease as time goes on. And again, Mika is a center, a position where you need depth more than anywhere else on the ice. (Yes, there are exceptions, but as a general rule, you need to be strong down the middle to win Stanley Cups.)
With the Mika deal out of the way, and as the Rangers approach the start of the 2021-22 season; outside of making two more roster cuts prior to Monday’s 5PM deadline, there is one last question to be answered – “who will be the team’s captain?”
Previously on this site, I have talked about the top four candidates for team captain. Those players are Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba, Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad.
The case against Mika for captain was that he didn’t have a long-term deal and could become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. With Mika now here long-term, his chances to become team captain have increased. And as I’ve been saying since day one – anyone but Trouba.
(And if you’ve been paying attention to the Rangers social media channels since this extension was announced, it sure does feel like they are building up to a Mika as team captain announcement.)
All in all, if there’s any true concern I have with this deal, it’s Mika’s well-known history with concussions. However, you can’t just plan for the worst. Ya gotta live a little.
In the horrific event that Mika has to walk away from hockey because of one more concussion, this deal wouldn’t count against the cap either. Let’s just hope that won’t ever be an issue – and with the Rangers now having tough guys in their line-up, you won’t see the opposition running Mika any time soon – or so I feel.
Congratulations to Mika Zibanejad. More importantly – WE WANT THE CUP. LGR!
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Moving forward, and as talked about last night, I’ll have a 2021-22 NHL Season Preview on this site sometime prior to Wednesday’s puck drop.
With this major Mika domino now out of the way, I may return real quick Monday, after the Rangers finalize their roster. And as suggested above – maybe we’ll get news on who the next team captain will be too.
Until next time…
Stay FABULOUS my friends.
As always here, thanks for reading and…
LET’S GO RANGERS!
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