Photo: Lou Capozzola/Getty Images North America
Mats Zuccarello’s response to his healthy scratch against Philadelphia has been nothing short of immense. At the time, Zuccarello was stumbling through the season doing nothing to warrant an extended future with the Rangers. Alain Vigneault was fully justified in removing the little Norwegian from the line-up when he did.
Since the 2-1 loss to the Flyers on the 24th October, Zuccarello has routinely flashed his high-end skill, perhaps encapsulated best by his perfect pass for Derek Stepan’s goal against the Penguins. Not many players would have tried that pass, let alone execute it so perfectly (the weighting of the pass was literally perfect for Stepan to skate to and roof past Fleury.)
With eight points in his last eight games Zuccarello has shown previously unseen consistency as –even accounting for the three assist splurge against the Hurricanes– he has only been held off the score sheet twice over that time frame. Not all is perfect though.
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Andrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News
For a team that is looking to contend and for a team with a boatload of injuries and players struggling to find form, waiting for a player to find his groove isn’t a particularly appealing option. As such, Mats Zuccarello has found himself on the slippery slope to the fourth line. Somewhere where small, skilled, defensively challenged players go to die.
So far, Zuccarello has been terrible for a team that has been terrible. For a team absent of arguably their best three wingers, the fact Zuccarello has fallen so far so quickly and contributed nothing in the interim is troublesome. He has received the ice time (over 16 minutes per game), he has had opportunities – if you can call one shot per game sufficient opportunity – but has failed to produce whichever way you look at it.
He’s not the only one struggling, but he’s one that was expected to build upon his successes last year.
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A bounce-back season from Brad Richards would be a huge boost for the Rangers
Best case: Asham continues to provide comedic relief on Twitter and plays in a handful of games with the Blueshirts.
Worst case: New York is unable to find a taker for Asham on waivers and he spends the final year of his contract in Hartford.
Best case: The former fourth-overall pick puts it all together as a Blueshirt and records a 20-goal season.
Worst case: The Rangers learn why Pouliot has already played for four teams in his young career and the big forward is invisible most nights. Read more »
Things are a little slow here in Rangerland as we count down to the pre-season, so I thought I’d tackle a more global topic.
Not withstanding the (now completely predictable) labor squabbles of recent years, the NHL has consistently investigated and implemented ways to improve its overall on-ice product. They aren’t plagued with the constant felony arrests of the NFL and NBA, nor the drunk driving and steroid issues of MLB. Most of the athletes are humble professionals who respect the game and the fans. Now, the NHL is not without its problems. There have been several nagging issues that have persisted through rule changes, new committees, summer R&D camps and beta tests in lower leagues. The most demonstrative examples include not enough goal scoring, concussions and obstruction-type penalties.
Now, all three of these major problems could be solved by one simple solution, and it’s not one anyone around the league wants to consider, myself included: moving the NHL to olympic sized rinks. I know what you’re thinking, I don’t like it either. It seems borderline sacrilegious. The NHL has always played on North American sized rinks. It’s what has differentiated the NHL from the Olympics and the inferior European leagues. We like the physicality, the fighting, the hard-nosed style of play that comes along with the smaller rink, but consider each league problem…
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Per Darren Dreger, he Rangers and Mats Zuccarello avoided their arbitration hearing, and have agreed on a one-year, $1.15 million contract. Zuccarello and the Rangers were set to go to arbitration tomorrow. The $1.15 million for Zuccarello represents a raise, but not as large of a raise as expected. Many, myself included, assumed he would get in the $1.5 million range. The extra money saved goes a long way to getting Derek Stepan under contract.
The NHLPA has announced its arbitration dates, and Mats Zuccarello’s hearing will be on July 31. Zuccarello filed for arbitration on July 10. As we noted here, this is just a part of the process. The hearing, if it takes place (remember both sides can still work out a deal), will find the middle ground between the two sides on a one-year deal.
In case you missed it yesterday, Mats Zuccarello filed for arbitration before the 5pm deadline. He and the Rangers were unable to come to an agreement before the deadline, so it makes sense that he filed for arbitration. This is just a step in the process, and does not represent any ill-will on either side. Some things to note about player-elected arbitration:
- Since he has filed for arbitration, no one can offer sheet Zuccarello anymore.
- In player elected arbitration, the team has the ability to walk away from the decision (if the salary is higher than $3.5 million). The Rangers did this with Nik Zherdev.
- Both sides can still hammer out a deal before the hearing date (date TBD).
- An arbitration filing all but guarantees that Zuccarello will be back next season, unless point #2 comes into play.
The Rangers won’t find a better alternative than Zuccarello
Mats Zuccarello has proven he has NHL ability, even if he hasn’t proven he can score consistently over an 82 game season. However at this stage, whoever the Rangers employ for a scoring role among the top nine wing positions, they will be taking a calculated risk, especially when you look at the alternatives – viable or not – that are still available in free agency.
With a ten percent cushion on the cap over the summer, the Rangers shouldn’t be worrying about squeezing Zuccarello in. Given the likely amount he’ll command, he is worth the commitment, and the Rangers will surely be able to move a half million or so if needed. When looking at alternatives, it is pretty shocking what some players are rumoured to be commanding.
The Detroit Red Wings decided to go down the Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss route rather than keep Damien Brunner on board. A large part of that decision by Wings’ brass will have been about value for money, as Brunner is rumoured to be commanding over $3.5m despite just one abbreviated, yet promising season under his belt. Clearly, the going rate in the NHL is shooting up if you command $3.5m for a 12-goal rookie campaign. It’s this reason why the Rangers need to keep Zuccarello.
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Ryan McDonagh will likely carry a cap hit between $4 million and $4.5 million
The decision to keep Brad Richards for another season left the New York Rangers without much wiggle room under the salary cap. Sure, New York is currently $14 million under the $64.3 million cap ceiling, but much of that will go toward retaining restricted free agents: Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Mats Zuccarello and Justin Falk.
According to Dave’s projections, we can expect McDonagh’s new cap hit to come in around $4 million to $4.5 million and Stepan’s to be between $3.5 million and $4 million. It’s probably a safe guess that Hagelin, Zuccarello and Falk will eat up a minimum of another $4 million. So even on the low side of things, the Rangers will need at least $11.5 million to keep their team intact. Read more »
As expected, the Rangers have not sent a qualifying offer to injured defenseman Michael Sauer. The other four key RFAs (Ryan McDonah, Mats Zuccarello, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin) all received QO’s, in addition to the newly acquired Justin Falk. To re-hash the QO amounts:
- Ryan McDonagh: $826,875
- Derek Stepan: $826,875
- Carl Hagelin: $660,000
- Mats Zuccarello: $735,000
- Justin Falk: $866,250
By offering the others QO’s, the Rangers retain their rights, and qualify for draft pick compensation should they lose anyone to an offer sheet. Of these players, only Derek Stepan is not eligible for arbitration, and only Falk is likely to sign without a significant raise. By not qualifying Sauer, he becomes a UFA.
In the AHL, only Brandon Mashinter was provided with a qualifying offer. Jyri Niemi and Nick Palmieri were not qualified, making them UFAs.