If Mats Zuccarello Is Not The Same What Will The Rangers Do?

Zuccarello (Getty Images)

Zuccarello (Getty Images)

In game five of the first round of the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Rangers winger Mats Zuccarello was struck in the head by a slap shot from Ryan McDonagh at the Penguins end of the ice. Zuccarello, visibly hurt by the shot, miraculously managed to skate off on his own power.

Derick Brassard and Carl Hagelin visited him in the hospital and were in tears at the sight of their friend in such bad shape. After such a horrible head injury, can Zuccarello return to the lineup and play the way he used to?

He was always tenacious and relentless on the puck. Never giving up on a play or a hit. He never backs down to anyone on the ice no matter how big or how tough they might be. Can Mats Zuccarello come back into the Rangers lineup and hold down a top 6 spot admirably anymore? Is he going to shy away from a hit in the corner or skate past the net rather than stopping in front for a tip or rebound?

Mats Zuccarello was always applauded for his play in the tough areas of the ice. As a smaller player it isn’t easy to hold your own in the corners or in the opposition’s crease. If the answer is no then what action will the Rangers take? They would be losing a 50 point playmaker that made guys around him better. I don’t know there is a guy in Hartford or the entire organization that could do what Zuccarello does every game.

Viktor Stalberg was likely signed as an insurance policy for the fourth line openings the Rangers have. In the event that Oscar Lindberg is not able to hold his own in the NHL, Stalberg would easily maintain an everyday roster spot.

These are all questions that’ll have to be answered in training camp and the preseason but the New York Rangers will need to have a contingency plan in place if Zuccarello isn’t the same. Another hard hit to the head could end his career and leave the Rangers without an important player on the team.

Zuccarello still has 4 years left on a contract that pays him $4.5 mil per season. A contract he just signed last season which shows just how valuable the organization feels he is. One could even argue that had Zuccarello not gotten injured the Rangers may have even won their first Cup since 1994. He is that important and the Rangers are hoping a full return to form.