It's that time of the year again. The time when the offseason hot stove that is the NHL rumor mill, drops to a barely flickering flame.

During this time period, the news is dominated by announcements pertaining to the signings of minor leaguers, as well as the salary arbitration exchanges between players and their respective teams.

In the NHL, it is a rare occurrence when a team and player actually go before the arbitration panel, as they usually manage to hammer out a deal beforehand -- sometimes just as they are about to enter the hearing.

This year, the Ny Rangers and presumed number one center Mika Zibanejad look to be on a collision course with the arbitration panel.

With Zibanejad's hearing scheduled for tomorrow, July 25th, it is worth noting that the team and player are no closer to a deal than they were when contract terms were exchanged.

First report

Larry Brooks of the New York Post was among the first to report what Mika's salary demands were, so hear's what he said: "Mika Zibanejad’s ask for $5.35 million would be pretty well within the parameters of precedent if that number was attached to a four- or five-year deal."

Now that we know what Zib wants, we can argue till we're blue in the face about whether or not he deserves such an amount. But before we banter back-and-forth, here's what Brooks had to say about the Rangers counter, "the Blueshirts submitted a bottom-of-the-market $4.1 million number in their brief that was filed Sunday."

Well, there we have it, the two sides are $1.25 million apart in average annual value.

However, there is more to it. Mika wants to sign what is known as a bridge contract -- bridge contracts are short-term two-year deals that players sign as restricted free agents that buy out their ability to go to arbitration but allow them to hit the open market when they become an unrestricted free agent, and without sacrificing any of their unrestricted years.

The Rangers, on the other hand, want to sign Zibanejad long-term, as they view him as their top line center, and at just 24-years-old, there is still untapped upside in his play.

If the two sides go to arbitration, there is sure to be some lingering animosity between the player and team, as is the case with most arbitration hearings, and that is something that General Manager Jeff Gorton should want to avoid.

Should the panel be left with the decision, they will likely rule somewhere around the mid-point between the sides. This would result in a one-year contract for roughly $4.75 million, and most importantly, it would allow Zibanejad to go through the arbitration process again next summer, in his last year as a restricted free agent.

What happens now

It is telling that Mika's camp is against a long-term deal at this point. Normally, young players would seek long-term financial security, opposed to taking the risk of potentially getting hurt or underperforming before getting their big payday.

Essentially Zibanejad is betting on himself to stay healthy and to take the next step in becoming the top-line guy that the Rangers envision him being.

So far, I'd say that that is a fools bet, as he has yet to prove he is capable of taking that step, and after his fractured leg last season, there is no guarantee that he will be able to avoid similar injuries over the next couple of seasons.

The ideal circumstance would be for the Rangers to lock Zibanejad up with a five-year/$25.75 million contract ($5.15 million AAV). This would allow the Blueshirts to hold on to Mika for the foreseeable future and for a reasonable amount, without going too far out. As well, it allows Zib to hit the open market at the age of 29, still in his prime, and should he take the next step forward, he would be able to cash in on that big payday that all players seek.

There are no guarantees in sports, but this contract might just be the best of both worlds. Either way, we should have a resolution by Friday morning at the latest.