Rangers close to signing NCAA champion Zac Jones

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The Rangers and Zachary Jones, the sophomore defenseman from the just crowned national champion Minutemen of UMass, are on the verge of a contract agreement that is expected to bring the 20-year-old to Broadway this season.

That would burn the first season of Jones’ three-year entry-level contract that The Post has learned will not include any performance-bonus provisions. That is essential for the Rangers, who paid a steep cap penalty this season for having so many bonus-eligible entry-level players on the roster.

The Rangers obviously would have preferred to get Jones into AHL Hartford on a Professional Try Out with the contract kicking in next season, but the 5-foot-10, 175-pounder renowned for his advanced offensive skills, could have become a free agent after two more seasons.

That acted as leverage in talks that progressed quickly following UMass’ 5-0 victory over St. Cloud State in Saturday’s national title game. Jones, who recorded 24 points (9-15) in 29 games, was named to the Frozen Four All-Tournament team after having been named as a NCAA (East) second team All American.

Sunday night at the Coliseum 1:03 into overtime, David Quinn sent Filip Chytil on to join Ryan Strome and K’Andre Miller for a defensive zone draw to the right of Igor Shesterkin. It seemed like a strange call, given the situation.

“I thought he was skating well, and speed,” the coach said following Monday’s practice. “It was just something that from a three-on-three standpoint, I thought he would be able to help us.”

Strome beat Travis Zajac on the draw, winning it back to Miller, who sent it up the right wall to Chytil. No. 72 took one stride, but was hemmed in and double-teamed by Zajac and Mat Barzal, who came free with the puck and sent a feed across to Ryan Pulock, who was wide open in the right circle after Strome had started out of the zone early. Pulock beat Shesterkin from the right circle for the winner at 1:13.

For the second successive overtime, the initial three-man unit of Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox slowed the pace down to retain possession but was unable to trigger an attack mode.

“It’s definitely different than what they’ve done and it’s something that, particularly in the [April 4] game in Buffalo and last night, that’s not usually how we go about our three-on-three’s,” the coach said. “We didn’t get a chance to work on it today, Bread wasn’t out there and it was a shirt practice, but that’s something we’re going to address before [Tuesday], that’s for sure.

Panarin, who was seen on the bench via MSG-TV with a heating pad on his lower back late in the match, did not skate, listed as taking a “maintenance day.” Panarin did miss two games with back issues on Feb. 12 and 16. Chris Kreider was also off the ice for “maintenance.”

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