Mats Zuccarello has a lot of talent, an abundance of skill and plenty of vision, but until he strings a few quality performances together at the NHL level doubts will remain about his ability to stick in the big league. Given the prospects coming up through the system, Zuccarello is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant in New York.
Regardless of whether you think Zuccarello has been given a fair shot this season, the fact is Carl Hagelin has had such a strong start in the AHL this year, as has Kreider in college, and both JT Miller and Christian Thomas are proving their ability in junior. For these reasons, Zuccarello is not a necessity going forward for the Rangers.
What IS a necessity for the Rangers is health and depth. Would you package Zuccarello for a short term fix on the blueline? Would you package the Norwegian, a pick and a roster player to make the Rangers one of the deepest defensive teams in the league? If the Rangers could get a player such as Ryan Suter (as mooted by the New York Post) the Rangers would become infinitely stronger.
Assuming Staal comes back this season (not a given) adding a player of Suter’s ability gives the Rangers a jaw dropping top four and it would mean a player such as Mike Sauer dropping to the bottom pair. It’d mean a player such as Tim Erixon playing in the AHL, which wouldn’t be a terrible thing as he’d play big minutes down there.
However the point here is this; Mats Zuccarello is a diminishing asset. He’s ripping up the AHL upon arriving there this weekend, but hasn’t been able to do it in the NHL consistently.
Zuccarello would (at this stage) still be an appealing trade piece for several teams thanks to a small sample size, natural ability and his international play still relatively fresh in the mind. It’s in the Rangers interest to check out what he could fetch. If that is part of a bigger deal to address immediate roster needs then so be it.