Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad-Jack Eichel conundrum may get awkward

The precedence for Chris Drury as Rangers normal supervisor comes out of his first entry draft, days away from the opening of the free agent market, is obvious, if not easy.

And that’s not merely to deal with the important matter of Mika Zibanejad’s contract standing as No. 93 prepares to enter his stroll 12 months, however to resolve it someway. Then, and solely then, can Drury train his focus on Jack Eichel, as a result of the one factor we all know is: The Blueshirts can’t accommodate each on this flat-cap surroundings. There isn’t sufficient inventive bookkeeping on the planet that may permit for that.

We can report that there have been preliminary discussions between Drury and Zibanejad’s agent, Monir Kalgoum, who occurs to be the middle’s brother. Our greatest data at this level is that Zibanejad is searching for a deal that may be at the least commensurate with the one underneath which Eichel is working in Buffalo. That would entail a dedication of $10 million per 12 months.

The cash is one factor. But equally essential is time period. Zibanejad goes to show 29 subsequent April. The Rangers are believed to need to maintain the contract to 5 or 6 years. The participant is believed to be asking for seven or eight years. But why wouldn’t he after the Blueshirts signed Chris Kreider to a seven-year deal that started at age 29?

Mika Zibanejad and Jack Eichel
AP (2)

It may be completely different if Zibanejad had been coming off 2019-20, when he thundered by means of the second half of the season to ascertain himself, no questions requested, as one of many elite gamers on the planet. He not solely scored, he dominated. He went to the robust areas. He gained battles. He engaged. He thrived towards the Islanders and Caps. He was in the course of every part and emerged as maybe the membership’s MVP in a 12 months wherein Artemi Panarin was a Hart Trophy finalist.

But that’s not the case. We know that Zibanejad was bodily and psychologically diminished for at the least the primary half of the 12 months after the Swede contracted COVID-19 shortly earlier than the opening of coaching camp. But even after No. 93 regained his equilibrium and his recreation in mid-March, it wasn’t the identical.

Zibanejad went on a goal-scoring spree — he is among the league’s true snipers — with 17 in his ultimate 25 video games, however he was a fringe participant for essentially the most half who appeared averse to contact. Was he defending himself within the aftermath of his restoration from the virus? Did results linger? I can’t say, however I do know he was completely different than not solely the earlier 12 months however from 2018-19, as properly.

And maybe extra telling had been his splits, even over the ultimate 25 video games wherein he recorded 11 objectives and 22 factors in 12 video games towards the Flyers, Devils and Sabres whereas posting six objectives and eight factors in 13 video games towards the Islanders, Bruins, Caps and Penguins (with two objectives coming within the ultimate interval of the ultimate recreation of the 12 months in Boston).

Does that make Zibanejad a nasty particular person? No. Does that make him a nasty participant? No. But it’s definitely one thing to think about when weighing whether or not he’s a $70 million participant.

Everyone is acquainted with the issues connected to Eichel, so there isn’t any must belabor them right here. But well being apart, Eichel’s eight-year, $80 million contract would expire at age 30 whereas a hypothetical Zibanejad seven-year deal would expire at age 35. All $10 tens of millions are usually not essentially created equal.

Of course, the price of Eichel could be compounded by the belongings sacrificed with the intention to acquire the nonetheless 24-year-old from the Sabres. Hypothetically, it’s $10 million per plus the worth of a bundle together with, say, Vitaly Kravtsov, Zac Jones, Filip Chytil and a first-rounder. So this could not be an apples-to-apples equation as calculated by Drury.

The normal supervisor will make that decision, however Zibanejad is in management proudly owning a no-move clause. If the Rangers don’t conform to his phrases, the Swede can merely play out the season to free company. What would that seem like if the staff has Eichel? What concerning the chemistry within the room? Awkward.

My sense is that the Rangers would favor extending Zibanejad fairly than buying Eichel. But the value must be proper. And if talks with Zibanejad break down, leverage in commerce negotiations goes to the Sabres, who don’t appear to be in any hurry in any respect to finalize the Eichel Saga.

Free company begins on Wednesday, Drury is trying so as to add extra toughness and function gamers to the bottom-six combine and he’s searching for a bodily left defenseman with measurement. But these duties are secondary. Resolving the Zibanejad matter is Priority One.

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