Earlier today, New York Rangers‘ small forward with a big heart, Mats Zuccarello, re-signed with the team just one day before his arbitration hearing. The once restricted free agent, Zuccarello, agreed to a new deal for one year worth $1.15 million. A steal if you ask me because originally I thought Zucc would want at least $1.5 million.
So with the Norwegian Hobbit now under contract, this leaves the Rangers with only one restricted free agent to sign to a new contract. This is of course center Derek Stepan who was arguably the best forward on the ice last season, with 18 goals and 26 assists while playing in all 48 games of last year’s strike shortened season.
So what does Zuccarello’s new deal mean for Stepan?
Stepan will get what he wants and is very important to the Rangers’ present and future, as he proved last season that he has what it takes to be a top center.
The real question should be how Zuccarello’s new deal impacts the rest of the Rangers team.
Players like Brian Boyle, Taylor Pyatt, Darroll Powe, and Aaron Asham are the ones in trouble and not Stepan. One or maybe two of those players will be traded before the end of the summer in order to make room to get Stepan under contract, since the Rangers currently only have just over $2 million to spend towards the salary cap.
Not to mention that even bigger names could be on the move soon enough to make room for goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who is the Rangers’ best overall player and an unrestricted free agent after this upcoming season.
So all in all, Rangers fans should not be worried about Stepan’s future with the Blueshirts because of this Zuccarello deal. I believe the Rangers will find a way to make room and get rid of some dead weight to ensure that Stepan stays a Ranger.