Revisiting The Mats Zuccarello Situation

November 29, 2011, by

When the Rangers made the decision to call up Carl Hagelin and John Mitchell last week, they were doing so for two reasons: they needed to address a need in the lineup (speed) and to try and shake things up a bit after a stale two games. Out of the lineup was Erik Christensen, and into the lineup were Hagelin and Mitchell, and both have held their own thus far.

What the Rangers also did was bypass Mats Zuccarello for a potential call up. Many will point to the salary cap as a reason why he was not called up, and yes that was a concern. However that is not as big of a concern as many are making it out to be. With Marc Staal, Wojtek Wolski, and Mike Rupp all on LTIR, the Rangers actually have $3 million in LTIR space available to them. This means that Zuccarello could have been a call up.

It looks like the Rangers have reached the proverbial “breaking point” with Zuccarello. That’s not to say that he is angering the organization, because it doesn’t appear that he is. It is just a point reached with players that the organization has realized he may not have a future with the club. It happened with Dane Byers. It happened with Dale Weise, it happened with Brodie Dupont. It looks like it has happened with Mats Zuccarello as well.

Zuccarello is not a bottom line player. In today’s NHL, he needs to be on the top nine forwards, preferably top six, to be an effective NHL player. Currently those spots are all occupied, both short term and long term (think: Hagelin, Kreider). There is not a single player in the lineup on the top six forwards that will be moved to make room for Zuccarello. On the third line, you can make a case for Ruslan Fedotenko or Sean Avery being switched out, and with good reason.

Thing is, both guys are done at the end of the year, and likely will not return. So, the Rangers are in the process of planning for the long term, and seeing what other players they have in the organization. They’ve seen Zuccarello. They saw him last year at both levels. Now it’s Carl Hagelin’s turn. Hagelin was tearing up the AHL, he earned his call up. Does Zuccarello’s AHL play make him a potential call up? Of course, but he’s a known entity within the organization. Hagelin is not.

What matters is that by no fault of his own –or of that of the coaching staff– Zuccarello may have simply been passed by players both on the roster and on the depth chart. The spot on the third line was his. He was given it, and he lost it. He looked lost, plain and simple. Now he has to get it back, or look for a fresh start. The kid has tremendous skill, but it doesn’t look like he has a future with this team.

Categories : Analysis


  1. Matt J says:

    They should trade him now or else they will regret it next year when there are too many forwards that have more of a future than him and it will be tougher to trade him.

    This is one of the few situations where I wouldn’t be upset if he asked for a trade (maybe he already has?) because I don’t blame him.

    • Blueshirt in Paris says:

      It wont even get to that. His contract is up at the end of the season and I don’t see him signing another one with the NYR. He would go back to the SEL.

  2. Walt says:

    As stated, Zuc has tremendous skill, but doesn’t have the size really to compete. Avery, and Feds are gone after this season, Hagelin, and Kreider are slated for those two spots. Not too far behind will be Miller, possibly Thomas, or Bourque, so it doesn’t look good for the Zuc kid.

    He was outstanding in the shoot outs early on, but tailed off after a while, so what does he bring to the table? Maybe we should showcase his skills, and later on in the season make a trade, and get some assits in return for him, possibly a draft pick. He is fun to watch, but is flat on his back too often to keep around, and take a spot from somebody who can make a contribution to the teams effert. I do wish him well and want him to excell, be it with us, or another team.

    • Agentsmith says:

      “As stated, Zuc has tremendous skill, but doesn’t have the size really to compete. ”

      finally a objective and accurate assessment regarding zuc. he gets lost vs physical teams – he doesnt really have enough other “traits” to make up for his dimunitive physique

    • The Suit says:

      With Gabby and Cally being somewhat injury prone, I’d probably hold on to Zukes for the time being.

      Doesn’t hurt to have some depth if someone goes down and that’s worth more than trading him for a late round pick or a “bag of pucks.”

    • Adam says:

      I also wonder if Wolski might be a candidate for non-tendering, especially with Hagelin’s play so far and how inconsistent Wolski has been throughout his career.

      Zuke is likely back in Europe or in another organization next season. He is not going to be able to crack the top 6 on Broadway, and he is ill-suited for playing the fourth line.

  3. mhurley says:

    Speaking of trades, could Zucarello and some underperforming forward(s)and picks be packaged in the rumored trade for Bobby Ryan?

    • Blueshirt in Paris says:

      I would start with a package of him an Dubi for Ryan.

      • Agentsmith says:

        a responsible anaheim gm would demand kreider in a ryan deal. so as good as ryan is, no go for me.

        • The Suit says:

          agreed, anyone on that line, perry, getz, ryan would fetch NHL caliber talent, and top prospects…cost is way too high

    • Keeps says:

      Why would ANA take a diminutive winger who hasnt been able to stick in the show, combined with other underperforming players for a player like Ryan?

    • JC says:

      Apparently Sather asked and they wanted Mcdonagh and Stepan or NHL ready defense. Which would mean Sauer or Erixon (obviously not alone)

  4. badman says:

    Ryan Borque has done nothing with the Whale to make us think he will be competing for a spot next year.

    • Agentsmith says:

      gonna be hard for him any way, kreider will have first dibs at a spot next yr. hagelin may not even have to compete for one. so there may not be room for bourque anyway. oh and thomas will likely be on the whale nxt year to begin.

  5. jerry says:

    i also feel its time to move him..i was a fan of his but hes not gonna get the minutes with us.and please torts dont put christensen back in the line up,we proved we have more capable players than him.!!!

  6. kgb16 says:

    I agree with all. He had his shot. Rangers should shop him and take whatever they can get for him, even if it is a bag of used pucks, though a draft pick would be nice. Interestingly, a lot of players traded from the Whale have found spots on NHL teams, so failure there doesn’t automatically relegate a player to a European career.. Include EC and WW in any deal. They both are a waste of space. Trading Dubi would be a mistake and I would let him sort through his present slump. He will make us proud.

    • Fotiu is God says:

      “Dah,” comrade KGB. I’m with you. (In heavy fake Russian accent.)

      Dubi, when motivated, is an animal. Down the stretch last year there were nights when it was clear that he’d taken up Tort’s challenge and put the club on his back.

      Moreover, he and Capt. Cally symbolize two of our cornerstone forwards. Both are Yanks, as well. No way he’s moved. (FYI, we’re the only NHL club whose roster is majority American-born: 38% to, I believe 32-33% Canadian; the remainder Euro.)

      Should Hagelin stick not only Zuke but EC become redundant. Keep Zuke on the farm.

      Nonetheless, should a Western Conference team dangle a bottom-six D-man with snarl–and a manageable cap-hit–Adrian Aucoin, Cory Sarich, Clayton Stoner let’s package EC, WW, and perhaps Zuke, if need be.

  7. bob says:

    We have a very deep draft coming up,trade Zucc at the deadline to a team looking to bolster their offense for the playoffs.We keep him for now in case of injury as long as we can keep him here.If we could fetch a second rounder I’d be happy.If Sather was smart he would clean the house a little at the deadline and grab picks for the 2012 draft.I hate losing players w/o getting something in return.

  8. john says:

    Trade Mats.He can play NHL and is a good player, he has good value and can bring a higher draft pick or prospect that the Rangers will have room for down the road.The top 6 is likely set with Hagelin Krieder and JT Miller on the way up now -all big strong skilled players,and they are superfast- something Zuccarello isn’t. He can bring value and should bring back a good player or pick.Lots of teams could really use him.

  9. paulronty says:

    Frankly, I think Zuke is a better player than John Mitchell, who had a real good shot in TO and ultimately failed. Hagelin & Zuke would be dynamic together as they were in the AHL. To me Zuke(who had a great training camp) is not really being given a fair chance.