The Rangers need to find a way to keep Mats Zuccarello with the organisation and in the line-up beyond this season. He provides the club with something different and can make a difference when he’s given the opportunity; as the win against the Devils showed.
Even with guys like Kreider en route there needs to be a place for the little Norwegian. Throwing Zuccarello on the ice after guys like Kreider is like a batter facing a knuckleball after countless fast balls. You have to plan differently for the nippy, much smaller Zuccarello. With his vision and passing ability there’s a different concern for a defense than with a straight-ahead-speed-merchant (with size) like Kreider. There should to be room for both.
There appears to be hope for Zuccarello, should he want to stay with the franchise and not explore other opportunities in the league (or Europe). Despite a great year collectively a few Rangers forwards have underwhelmed.
Brandon Dubinsky (better recently) has had a brutal year and clearly has a tenuous future given his presence in the Nash discussions. Artem Anisimov, a few games here and there aside, appears to have stagnated this year and isn’t as secure of his spot as he may once have been. Fedotenko looks to be getting older every game he plays.
There is surely space to accommodate Kreider and Zuccarello and that is to assume Kreider doesn’t spend time in the minors – still a possibility. A good question was raised on Twitter after the Devils game. Would ‘Zuke’ even want to stay after this year? It’s a valid question given his frustrating and inconsistent time with the organisation.
That said, if the Rangers offered him an increased opportunity of 13(is) minutes a game with a big part on the powerplay you have to think he’d consider staying. The Rangers are a club going places and looking to contend and that surely plays a role in any ambitious players’ decision.
What complicates all of this for Zuccarello is the contractual situation. Whether he’s been used correctly or not (a significant debate in itself), he simply hasn’t justified the Rangers qualifying him at (Update by Dave: Sorry to do this Chris, but the QO for Zucc is $945k, not $1.75m. The QO is based on salary, and that $1.75m includes bonuses.)
$1.75m so there are complicating factors going forward. Though how much of an issue that would be if all parties wanted a reunion is another matter.
The Rangers need to find a way to keep the Norwegian. Not because he’s popular in the locker room. Not because he has a rock star following back home or because he is a media curiosity but because he could be a difference maker and successful teams can never have enough of those.