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.
Zuccarello will likely cost no more than $2m, if only because he’s yet to do it over a full NHL season. While Zuccarello and Brunner are different player types (and arguably have different ceilings), Brunner’s demands suggest the Rangers will be hard pressed to get a player of Zuccarello’s ability (and organisational fit) at the same price.
Rumours have started that with Ryan McDonagh and Carl Hagelin signed, and the assumed Derek Stepan asking price, the Rangers may struggle to give Zuccarello enough dollars. With McDonagh eating up almost $5m in cap and Stepan likely to be not far behind him once signed, Glen Sather needs to get value for money wherever he can. For an additional scoring forward, staying within the organisation and sticking with Zuccarello is the most likely route to successfully filling out the roster. Sometimes it’s about value for money.