Rangers Re-Sign Mika While Isles & Devils Busy Too

Regarded as the heir apparent to Derek Stepan as the Rangers top center, Mika Zibanejad now will be preparing to prove he’s worth every dollar of his newly-minted contract.

Celebrating a five-year, $5.35 million annual pact, the 24-year-old Swede virtually bubbled over the prospects of his second season as a Blueshirt.

“I’m super-happy,” Zibanejad exulted in a Tuesday conference call. “I always wanted more responsibility.”

He’ll get that as the new top pivot, with Kevin Hayes following in the pecking order and J.T. Miller and David Desharnais rounding out the anticipated centermen.

While a serious left leg injury (fractured fibula) cost him 26 games in 2016-17, Mika tallied 14 goals and 23 assists for 37 points in 56 games.

“Now,” he explained, “I want to take my game to the next level and already am preparing for this opportunity.”

Obtained from Ottawa on July 18, 2016 along with the Senators’ second-round pick in 2018, Zibanejad cost the Rangers Derick Brassard, who moved to Canada’s capital along with New York’s seventh-round pick in the 2018 Draft.

Admittedly sad about losing former teammates Stepan, Oscar Lindberg, Antti Raanta, Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein, Zibanejad views the new edition Rangers with optimism.

“Yes, I was disappointed in the way we finished in the playoffs,” he said, “but I feel good about our additions, including Kevin Shattenkirk on our defense.”

The New Rochelle product, Shattenkirk will be abetted by recently-re-signed Brendan Smith and Anthony DeAngelo, the young defense talent obtained from Arizona in the Stepan-Raanta exchange.

Completing his first New York season, Mika sported a plus-nine rating and was lauded for his blend of speed, skill and deadly shot.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder skated in a dozen playoff games with two goals and seven assists for nine points and a plus-four rating. His injury really was Mika’s only meaningful downer in his Rangers debut season.

Meanwhile, the Islanders emphasized their faith in large (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) Adam Pelech as a potential top-four backliner.

General Manager Garth Snow made sure that the Toronto native was protected in the Expansion Draft and with good reason. Pelech has proven to be solid in his own end with some offensive upside.

His deal calls for four years at $1.6 million annually which has Adam thrilled and delighted.

“It’s a great feeling when an organization puts that type of faith in you,” he told Newsday. “Hopefully, over the next four years I can establish myself as an NHL regular and push the Islanders to the playoffs.”

NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 09: Adam Pelech #50 of the New York Islanders looks on against the Ottawa Senators during an NHL game at Barclays Center on April 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ryan/NHLI via Getty Images)

Across the Hudson River, the Devils inked their version of Pelech by the name of Mirco Mueller, 22, who had been with the San Jose Sharks.

Like Pelech, the native of Switzerland, measures 6-foot-3, 210 and figures to make the New Jersey varsity, vying for a spot on the third D-pair, likely with Ben Lovejoy.

Mueller’s deal calls for two years at $800,000 per year.

Up front, General Manager Ray Shero returned hustling Joseph Blandisi to his roster. Joltin’ Joe has a two-year, two-way pact at $680,000 at the NHL level. Some observers believe that he’ll start the season in the AHL.

Once promising goalie Scott Wedgwood gets another chance to prove he has a shot at the bigs after signing a one-year, two-way contract worth $650,000 at the NHL level.

A torn labrum in his right shoulder required surgery last season and virtually cost him a good hockey year. He appeared in only 10 games but could surprise this time around in mint condition.