Rangers Aftermath: What’s the next move with Mats Zuccarello?

Zibanejad celebrates Zuccarello’s 1st period score (Getty)

In what seems almost a yearly occurrence, Mats Zuccarello —  the diminutive & wildly popular winger for the Rangers — wins the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award for going “above and beyond the call of duty” on the team. A three-time winner, the man has his own fan chant of “Zuuuuuc” extended to him literally every time he touches the puck…even on the road. He’s the Everyman underdog, very talented, loved, and has lead the team in points 4 of the last 5 seasons.

The Norwegian Interview

This week, Mats Zuccarello caused quite a stir after an interview he did with a Norwegian reporter. While there’s been some controversy as to the translation, the ultimate sentiment that Zuccarello relayed is that he’s prepared to be moved.

Like most Rangers fans, I think he’s going to be traded.

You see there’s this new system in place where a bunch of kids and Marc Staal are thrown out on the ice and told to work as hard as they can for 60 minutes till the third horn sounds. But something’s amiss for him in this new system. Aside from his obvious groin injury — which grows more mysterious by the scratch — he doesn’t seem to fit the same way he did in past years. The upstart rebuilding NYR team is playing with an effort and fervor that I don’t ever remember seeing the likes of over the last 10 years — and those were some pretty successful teams, often because of Mats.

Zuuuuuccc

No one, and I mean no one, works as hard or is as smart as Zuc. His freezout-shootout-style, his playmaking (imo, unselfish often enough to the detriment of the play when he doesn’t shoot), and his grit should make him quite a valuable asset. However, entering the last year of his contract, it’s unlikely he’ll fetch a something at the moment, but teams will be calling about him in the coming months.

There are a lot of teams in this league that can use a player like Zucc, especially teams that have a fan base breathing down their necks for wins (as per the Oilers). The question is what would the yield be for the 31-year-old Norwegian on an expiring contract? Last year at the deadline, the Rangers moved the speedy forward Michael Grabner across the pond to the Devils for a 2nd round pick, and a mid-level prospect Yegor Rykov.

Before being traded, Grabner potted 25 goals, and totaled 31 points, finishing the year (with both the Rangers and Devils) with 36 points. If we take a deeper dive into Zucc’s numbers over the last five years they are as such (in terms of points): 59, 49, 61, 59, and 53; numbers far better than Grabner’s over that span. Not to mention Grabner was playing quite possibly the best hockey of his career in during the year and a half he spent on Broadway. I’m not saying that Zucc and Grabner are similar players because they are not, but in terms of age, and contract they are. If Grabner was able to yield a 2nd round pick, and a mid-level prospect, Zucc should at the very LEAST get that, if not more.

A Possible Trade

My thoughts on a possible deal: Yes, while Quinn still trots out some questionable lineups from time to time, the Rangers are still very much in rebuild mode. They are also playing in a much different, upstart environment…..one that I unfortunately do not think Zucc is accustomed to. The Rangers put a plan in place starting at the 2017 draft in Chicago, and have got to stay the course. As hard as it would be (and I think is going to be because I believe he will get traded) to watch the fiery, 5 foot 7 inch pest that is Mats Zuccarello go, it is what’s best for the Rangers moving forward.