With Mika Zibanejad back in the fold, the New York Rangers now have their replacement for the departed Derek Stepan.
The Rangers announced today that they re-signed center Mika Zibanejad to a five-year contract with a $5.35M AAV. The 23-year-old Swede and the Rangers reached this agreement at the 11th hour, as the arbitration hearing was scheduled for today.
Zibanejad increased his goal, assist, and point totals every year with the Ottawa Senators. Although his totals went down in his first year with the Rangers, his assists per game and points per game both increased (he was missed several months with a broken leg). He scored at a .25 goals per game average, which would put him at 20 goals in an 82 game season, one less than his total from his final season with the Senators.
Upon signing his contract, Zibanejad now carries the second highest cap hit among forwards, the fourth highest among skaters, and the fifth highest among all Rangers. According to Spotrac, Jaden Schwartz will have the same cap hit as Zibanejad. Schwartz scored 55 points last year, which was right around the amount Zibanejad would have scored had he played the full season scoring at the pace he did.
Zibanejad found early chemistry with Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich before his broken leg, playing on a line often referred to as the “KZB line.” Ideally, those three will be able to play together next year and find a similar chemistry that they did last year.
$5.35 million is right in line with a number two center, which is where Zibanejad’s floor lies. He could be done developing, but he is still young enough where he could potentially become a legitimate number one center.
Overall, this is a fair contract, with the potential to become a steal for the Rangers, and without significant risk of it backfiring.