Should the Rangers hold on to Mats Zuccarello after this season?

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The New York Rangers are moving toward a disruptive change on their roster in these rebuilding years. Young, fast and lethal from all areas of the ice seems to be the direction and with that, changes have happened and changes are certainly coming. The biggest of these possible changes is Mats Zuccarello.

It seems he knows the situation in front of him during this contract year. As reported by Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post, Zuccarello is focused on the now and whatever comes of the later is, what it is.

“I’d like to be here, everyone knows that, but if they don’t want me, I’m sure some other team will. But for now, my thoughts are all about doing the best I can to help this team succeed.”

Is it time to invest in him as the leader of this greenhorn roster, or let him slip to free agency?

Free Agency Looming

This is the final year of Zuccarello’s fouryear, $18 million contract. He is making an AAV of $4.5 million and with his steadiness and consistency in point production, one can assume that it would be raised to just above $5 million for his next contract. Also on the free agency block after this season is Kevin Hayes, Pavel Buchnevich (RFA) and newly acquired Adam McQuaid.

Those three contracts could prove to be very expensive, considering Buchnevich is coming out of his ELC contract and McQuaid could be a staple for this defensive core for the duration of this rebuild. Hayes has a very good chance of not making it past the trade deadline, depending on how he is playing.

Zuccarello has been something that can’t be easily said for most of this team, consistent. He has been the leader in points over each of the last three seasons. And the biggest part of his staying is keeping the right side of the offense in check. The right wing spot is relatively empty besides Zucc and Pavel Buchnevich, the final two line spots can be picked up by Jesper Fast and Vitali Kravtsov should he make the jump. Experience is key and no one has more than Zuccarello.

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Leadership Value

On top of point production, he is a leader for this young team. There is a fire in his actions on and off of the ice. Young forwards like Andersson and eventually, the likes of Ty Ronning and Vitali Kravtsov, will benefit from Zuccarello’s leadership when the time comes.

The 31-year-old has stayed healthy, despite playing a larger than size style. His tenacity is unmatched by both sides and that speaks volumes in the locker room. Zuccarello should be a mainstay for the Rangers moving forward and his involvement will have an impact once this young team finds its true chemistry.

Being aware of his situation, and whether or not the Rangers have plans with #36 after this upcoming season, Zucc is gonna have to continue what he has been doing for years, playing his heart out. Night after night, Zuccarello will be playing his heart out for all of Rangerstown and unfortunately, his next team watching to see his true worth.

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