He effectively signed a bridge contract with the Senators coming out of his ELC back in 2015 with an escalating salary that saw him earn $2M in year one and $3.25M in year two. He turned 24 in April and has two years remaining of RFA eligibility before UFA. Should the Rangers buy more than two years of contract service, they’ll be purchasing UFA-eligible years, which means they come at UFA prices.

Below are his box car stats over the last four seasons. I’ve bolded an important aspect of them.

With his P/GP pace gradually improving year-over-year, combined with being arbitration eligible and only two years of RFA left, it sure seems the Rangers have no other choice but to sign him long-term, despite the injury-derailed season he had.

With all this accounted for, my guess is they’ll look at similar contracts signed by comparable players at the same age. Derek Stepan, Logan Couture, Tyler Ennis, Brayden Schenn, and perhaps Nazem Kadri all spring to mind. All of whom, minus Kadri, signed their extensions at the same career point and at the same age of 24.

All five players compare favorably in terms of P/GP average over the last four seasons, with Ellis an outlier on the less productive side, which tells me the average AAV between them—$5.345M—is a very healthy estimate for where Zibanejad’s AAV will land. If we want to round it to an easy number, let’s just call it $5.3M and call it a day.

It’s then a matter of years. My guess is they’ll go no fewer than five, but no greater than six. This would take Zibanejad from the age of 24 to either the age of 29 or 30 while buying all of his prime years. He’ll get a second kick at UFA at either age and probably sign a second and final multi-year contract, but the Rangers will likely own his rights for his most productive NHL years.