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Zibanejad, Rangers agree to terms on five-year contract

Center's deal has average annual value of $5.35 million

by Jon Lane @JonLaneNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

Center Mika Zibanejad agreed to terms with the New York Rangers on a five-year contract with an average annual value of $5.35 million on Tuesday.

The sides came together the same day Zibanejad, a restricted free agent, was scheduled to have an arbitration hearing in Toronto.

"Obviously it was something we hoped was going to happen," the 24-year-old said. "I'm super happy a deal got done. I'm super happy to be staying in New York for the next five years and I'm really, really looking forward to next season."

 

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This season presents an opportunity for Zibanejad to play as a No. 1 center in the NHL, an opening created when Derek Stepan and goalie Antti Raanta were traded by the Rangers to the Arizona Coyotes for defenseman Anthony DeAngelo and the No. 7 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft on June 23.

"Even before signing, seeing Derek being traded was a little bit of an alert to me that I might get a chance to play a bigger role," Zibanejad said. "I don't think there's a single guy out there that would say 'No' to an opportunity like this. I'm super, super happy and excited about next season. You always want to improve whatever situation you might be in. You always want to be better than last season or your last game. I'm super pumped and excited for this upcoming season.

"There's always been moments when you feel like you can take your game to the next level and that's what I'm working on here in the summer, trying to do all the things I can do to prepare myself for this opportunity."

Video: Mika Zibanejad discusses five-year extension

The Rangers will open training camp in September with a different look at center. Stepan and fourth-line center Oscar Lindberg (Vegas Golden Knights) are gone, which leaves a projected depth chart of Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, David Desharnais and Cristoval Nieves. Versatile forward J.T. Miller could see time at center, and first-round pick Lias Andersson, 18, impressed during development camp and is expected to get a long look.

That leaves Zibanejad to handle a heavier burden after playing as a No. 2 and 3 center with the Ottawa Senators and Rangers.

"As a player, you always want more responsibility and a bigger role," Zibanejad said. "It's something I'm working really hard to make sure I'm taking advantage of the chance I'm getting."

Video: NYR@MTL, Gm5: Zibanejad buries shot for OT win

Chosen by the Senators with the sixth pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, Zibanejad was traded to the Rangers for center Derick Brassard on July 18, 2016. He had 37 points (14 goals, 23 assists) in 56 games last season (an NHL career-high 0.66 points per game), missing almost two months because of a broken fibula, and had nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games before New York was eliminated by Ottawa in the Eastern Conference Second Round.

"As a group, we're obviously disappointed with how the season ended last year," Zibanejad said. "We had a good group and a good team to go further than we did. I'm really excited about our team and our chances to do better this year."

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