I don’t consider the Rangers have any intention of changing Mika Zibanejad with Jack Eichel subsequent season. It is feasible they might add Eichel, whose relationship with the Sabres represents a case study of next-level dysfunction, however nobody ought to make that assumption, both.
The Blueshirts have to import a veteran chief with a monitor file of NHL staff success. There was a cause, former GM Neil Smith mentioned again within the day, that he traded for Oilers and never Sharks. Not solely hasn’t one participant on the roster gained the Stanley Cup, Chris Kreider and Jacob Trouba (as soon as as a Jet) are the one guys who’ve even performed within the convention finals.
Eichel, coming off a herniated disk and different assorted illnesses, has by no means performed in a playoff recreation in his six years within the league. Is that essentially on the 24-year-old staff captain? Of course not, however neither does he examine the field about veteran management or having a profitable staff résumé.
The Rangers additionally want a participant for their top-six who will set a bodily tone and drive the opposition to again off. Would Eichel try this?
No one will have extra perception on Eichel than Blueshirts’ decider Chris Drury, who was represented by the identical agent throughout his taking part in profession as Eichel. The Rangers gained’t be coping with any mysteries with regard to Eichel.
The thriller is how the Rangers would have the ability to accommodate Eichel’s $10 million cap hit on a contract that runs via 2025-26 in live performance with a Zibanejad extension that absolutely can be price a minimum of $8 million per?
How a lot nearer to a championship would the Rangers be with a hypothetical annual expenditure of $18 million on their two prime facilities if they’re Eichel and Zibanejad?
When proper, Zibanejad is a goal-scoring machine. He was proper down the stretch this yr, recording 17 targets in his remaining 25 video games on a 21.3 capturing proportion after thundering down the monitor final yr with 24 targets in his remaining 25 video games on a 22.6 capturing proportion. A full-season of well being, assist and confidence and, mark it down, Zibanejad will rating 50.
He is the Rangers’ deadly weapon and the staff can be loopy to not need him on their aspect.
It is a query of for how a lot and for how lengthy an extension for Zibanejad, who has one yr remaining on his contract resulting in unrestricted free company. It is a query of whether or not you consider that Zibanejad has the requirements to be a top-six heart on a Stanley Cup championship staff.
Well, no, it doesn’t matter in any respect what you consider, solely what Drury and the supporting entrance workplace workers consider about Zibanejad, who lastly got here clear on Monday on simply how a lot harm contracting COVID-19 per week earlier than coaching camp did to his first half-season.
“It was a unique situation, obviously, having COVID and having one practice before the season started,” No. 93 mentioned on the membership’s breakup day. “I feel I attempted to inform myself that I used to be feeling good and that I used to be feeling tremendous, nevertheless it wasn’t … it wasn’t straightforward.
“I didn’t actually really feel on top of things after that and it took me some time to get, sort of, get again bodily and mentally, and I didn’t need to have something to sort of have an excuse, or no matter, and likewise I didn’t need to inform myself that and provides myself an excuse.
“That was the reason I didn’t talk about it as much as people asked me about it.”
Zibanejad has by no means fallen again on alibis. He has been a straight-up man via 5 years on Broadway. I feel I want he had sat out till he regained his power as an alternative of showing as an apparition many nights, however it isn’t for me to second-guess dealing with of a private well being concern. He turned the yr his manner, he mentioned, via the assist of his teammates, his fiancée, household and buddies.
“To end the season the way I did was obviously a huge confidence boost and with everything that went on the first six weeks, I’m happy I was able to bounce back, get through it and be able to take that with me,” mentioned the Swede. “I don’t think I’m going to have any situation like that the start of this season.”
Zibanejad goes to be 29 by the point his subsequent contract kicks in. The Rangers would seemingly need to maintain the road at a five-year time period. If that’s not acceptable to Zibanejad, if he calls for the identical seven years the membership awarded equivalent-age Kreider final yr, it most likely gained’t fly.
There is mutual curiosity in extending the connection. It will be on each events to make it work. And then it will be on the Rangers to fortify the highest of the depth chart in order that Zibanejad can thrive.
Would that characteristic the acquisition of Eichel? I’m fairly skeptical about that being the way in which to go.