An Inside Look At Mats Zuccarello’s Future With The Rangers

USA Today

Mats Zuccarello is perhaps the most popular member of the New York Rangers outside of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Now he is entering a summer of uncertainty for the first time since joining the Rangers for good in 2013-14.

A Crossroads

The diminutive Norwegian has been one of the Rangers’ most consistent players. Zuccarello has led the team in scoring each of the last three years, which is a feat in it of itself. But perhaps more importantly, and in my opinion impressively, Zuccarello has won the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award in three of the last five seasons, receiving the award for never giving up on a shift and doing whatever it takes to win, including dropping the mitts if necessary.

But with all of the recent events occurring around him, Zuccarello is caught in an interesting position. The 30-year-old winger is on the final year of his contract, and with the Rangers getting younger by the day, Zuccarello needs to decide if he wants to stick around and be the veteran leader for this very young forward group.

Exclusive Insight

In speaking with Roy Kvatningen on The Tilted Ice Podcast last week, we learned that Zuccarello is very much undecided. According to Kvatningen, who has known Zuccarello since he was a teenager, Zuccarello has been mulling over his options and cannot seem to make up his mind. Kvatningen feels that Zuccarello is at around 60% leaning to stay with the Rangers, but that Mats’ has been having a constant change of heart over his future.

It seems to be that Zuccarello’s biggest factor in deciding his future with the Rangers will come down to the direction the team is heading. If they are all about winning and developing their young talents simultaneously, then Zuccarello would most likely stick around for the next couple of years. But, as Roy says on the podcast, if the team is only going to focus on player development, and will “throw in the towel” on the 2018-19 season, then it would appear that Zuccarello will look for a new opportunity to win the Stanley Cup.

And for Zuccarello, that all starts with David Quinn. Interpreting Zuccarello’s words, Kvatningen said that Zuccarello wasn’t entirely convinced about how much of the team’s resources would be spent on developing the next group of young Rangers, and how much would be focused on winning night after night. Kvatningen explained that Zuccarello loves the city, loves the fans and loves being a New Yorker, but, for Zuccarello, it comes down to winning.

Captain Zucc?

Should Zuccarello continue to make Madison Square Garden his home, and he feels that the Rangers are focused on winning, Kvatningen is of the belief that Zuccarello would welcome the chance to have a larger role on the team. However, when we asked him about Zuccarello becoming the next captain of the Rangers, Kvatningen wasn’t so sure that Mats would accept the offer. While he says that Zuccarello would consider it a huge honor, he feels that it depends on whether or not the team will go for the Cup in the next two or three years. As Kvatningen points out, Zuccarello will be 31 at the start of the 2018-19 campaign, which means that the end of Zuccarello’s NHL career may be approaching sooner than we may like.

As for Zuccarello leaving the Rangers, Kvatningen said that his source has told him that both the Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks were interested in Zuccarello’s services. The Rangers had a high asking price at the trade deadline of a first-round pick, and a prospect, and possibly an NHL player as well. To the Rangers, Zuccarello has an incredibly high value as the team’s de facto veteran leader. But to the rest of the league, he is not worth that heavy price on the trade market.

There is still a lot more in our interview with Roy, as well as the rest of the episode, as we previewed the Stanley Cup Final, discussed David Quinn’s hiring, and a few other topics. To listen to the full show, click below.

Editor’s Note: The interview with Roy Kvatningen begins at 46:25

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