The Rangers' Mika Zibanejad celebrates after he scored a hat...

The Rangers' Mika Zibanejad celebrates after he scored a hat trick in the second period against the Sabres during an NHL game on April 25 at Madison Square Garden. Credit: AP/Elsa

Hours after their preseason ended, the Rangers locked up a huge chunk of their future. They have agreed to an eight-year contract extension with first-line center Mika Zibanejad, the team announced Sunday. The New York Post reported the contract carries an average annual value of $8.5 million.

The Rangers did not make Zibanejad or team president and general manager Chris Drury available to the media, but Zibanejad recorded a brief message to the fans that the Rangers put up on social media.

"Hi Rangers fans, I’m super, super excited to be here for another eight years,’’ he said. "I can’t believe it and I can’t wait to see you guys at the Garden soon. Let’s get this season started.’’

The Rangers will open the regular season Wednesday in Washington and play their home opener the following night at Madison Square Garden against the Dallas Stars.

Zibanejad, 28, is in the final year of a contract that carries a salary-cap hit of $5.35 million. The extension will kick in next season and run through 2029-30, when he will be 37.

In the news release announcing the signing, Drury said: "Since joining the team in 2016, Mika has emerged as one of the premier players in the NHL. In addition to being a great player on the ice, Mika is an exemplary person off the ice. We are fortunate to have him as part of our Rangers organization and are excited that he will continue his career in New York.’’

In signing Zibanejad, who has been named to the Swedish Olympic team, the Rangers appear to have closed the door on trading for Buffalo Sabres star Jack Eichel, who is at odds with his team about what kind of neck surgery he should have and is being shopped around the league.

The Rangers were known to have interest in acquiring Eichel over the summer. With salary-cap constraints, it would be impossible to carry both Zibanejad and Eichel, who carries a $10 million cap hit for the next five seasons, on the roster.

With Artemi Panarin (cap hit of $11.6 million), Jacob Trouba ($8 million), Chris Kreider ($6.5 million) and goaltender Igor Shesterkin ($5.6 million) on the roster — and with Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Adam Fox needing a new contract for next season and likely looking at something in the $9 million range per season — there is no room for both Zibanejad’s salary and Eichel’s under the NHL’s $81.5 million cap.

Zibanejad, slowed in the first half of last season after contracting COVID-19 at the start of training camp, still managed to play all 56 games and finish with 24 goals and 50 points. He had 41 goals in 57 games the season before and has 200 goals and 434 points in 604 career NHL games with Ottawa and the Rangers.

In five seasons with the Rangers, he has 136 goals and 283 points in 323 games. He was acquired in a trade for Derick Brassard and an exchange of draft picks in the summer of 2016.

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