Amid the very up and down season the Rangers are currently ‘enjoying’, one player who has finally started to show some legitimate consistency is Mats Zuccarello, and it could cost the Rangers. The Rangers did the right thing last summer when they did not over commit to Zuccarello when they brought him back on a short term deal. The player hadn’t shown enough consistency or finishing ability to be considered a viable top six NHL forward and given his size and skill set, any other role wasn’t a realistic option.
Since his early season benching for the Flyers game, Zuccarello has arguably been the Rangers most creative player and is producing at a solid level. For a player that until recently has struggled to exert himself on a game by game basis, Zuccarello has been a creative force.
Zuccarello has started to score goals, his playmaking has been at a high level, and he has been one of the more productive players on the powerplay. Not without his own flaws, Zuccarello continues to have defensive lapses and is perhaps too focused on making the perfect pass rather than looking to finish. But recent signs have been promising.
Consistency is key. With four goals in his last seven games, and as the third highest scorer on a team struggling to score, Zuccarello is carving out a solid role for himself after his previous struggles. This is evident when you consider the eight points he has contributed on an improved Rangers powerplay unit.
On course to score over 50 points this season, Zuccarello has a chance to cash in this summer, especially as countless other Rangers under perform offensively. With the cap promising to go up – Gary Bettman has indicated $71.1 million as a cap ceiling – the Rangers will have cap space, thanks to the likely departure of a handful of veterans (goodbye Pyatt and Pouliot et al).
If he can maintain his offensive production (or better still, keep improving) Zuccarello should be in store for a solid pay rise. However, amid all the positivity, will the improved performances mean the Rangers are willing to offer a significant raise?
The Norwegian playmaker is making $900k this year (bonus not inclusive) and is a restricted free agent in the summer. Knowing Glen Sather’s hard ball stance with RFA’s, Zuccarello shouldn’t expect to laugh all the way to the bank. At the very least his recent improved play means the Hobbit is looking at prolonging his stay on Broadway for near future.