GREENBURGH, N.Y. - With time running out before Monday's 3 p.m. trade deadline, it appeared Sunday that the Rangers were closing in on a multiyear agreement with pending unrestricted free agent Mats Zuccarello.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, who was involved in trade-deadline meetings that included talks about Zuccarello's status, was not on the ice for practice Sunday.
Asked if he expects to have the 5-7 winger, who has 12 goals and 23 assists, in the lineup Monday night against Nashville, Vigneault said: "I could not give you a definitive answer on that one right now . . . At this time, Mats Zuccarello is a New York Ranger, and unless specified otherwise, he'll be a New York Ranger."
The framework being discussed Sunday, according to people familiar with the negotiations, was a four-year contract worth $18 million.
In the past few days, the Rangers increased the pressure on the Norwegian winger, who has said he wants to stay with the Blueshirts.
The Rangers had been telling teams that Zuccarello, 27, who was seeking more than $5 million per season, was being made available and that the club would listen to trade offers. Vigneault, who repeatedly said he hoped the team and the player could find middle ground, warned that general manager Glen Sather was not bluffing.
Zuccarello hit career highs in goals (19) and assists (40) and had seven points in 12 playoff games last season. Although he sought a longer contract, he accepted a one-year deal for $3.5 million.
After the reports surfaced Saturday, Zuccarello, who has been a terrific fit on a line with Rick Nash and Derick Brassard, was minus-3 with only two shots that night in a 4-2 loss in Philadelphia.
Zuccarello was 6-17-23 in 42 games in 2010-11, his rookie season. Injuries in 2011-12 limited him to 37 games in Hartford (AHL) and 10 games with the Rangers, and on June 1, 2012, he signed a two-year deal with Mettalurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL and played 44 games.
After the lockout ended, he returned for the last 15 games of the NHL season. The Oslo native has said several times, including Saturday, that he appreciates having been given a second chance with the Rangers.