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How long should the Rangers commit to Mats Zuccarello?

Zuccarello's here to stay

Zuccarello’s here to stay

It goes without saying that the Rangers – barring unforeseen circumstances – will be offering leading scorer Mats Zuccarello a new deal in the summer. Zuccarello was a creative spark when he returned from the KHL last year and has been a stunning surprise this year – no one foresaw Zuccarello leading the Rangers offensively. With all that said, has Zuccarello done enough to warrant a long term commitment from the Rangers?

As a restricted free agent, Zuccarello doesn’t have a significant amount of leverage but sometimes numbers do speak for themselves. Zuccarello established career highs in every meaningful offensive statistic while his line with Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot was the Rangers most consistent all season long. On an inconsistent powerplay Zuccarello was one of the few constants.

Zuccarello has also turned up in the playoffs. While a small sample size, Zuccarello was one of the more creative forwards last season and has started this postseason well with 2 points in 3 games against the Flyers. The little Norwegian winger has dispelled any theories of his size being an issue and has always been one of the Rangers’ more physically engaged forwards, even if he’s not intimidating. He has not backed down from anything the Flyers have thrown at him.

With an increasing cap and a lot of potential turnover, not to mention his line’s impressive consistency (and …the subsequent roster depth it has provided) there are numerous reasons why the Rangers should commit long term to Zuccarello. The only real question is whether his production this year can be repeated? Can Zuccarello get close to 60 points again?

The Rangers areas of concern beyond this year do not rest with their group of wingers which is in part thanks to Zuccarello’s development. With Zuccarello, Nash, St Louis, Kreider and Hagelin the Rangers have a fine core to build on and retaining of all these players allows the Rangers to focus on the eventual Brad Richards’ replacement and dealing with Derick Brassard’s future.

How long should the Rangers commit to Zuccarello? With no sure-thing on the way from the AHL or the prospect pool (Kristo and Miller headline a talented but unproven bunch) and with a proven, popular commodity already in place, the risk associated with retaining Zuccarello isn’t as significant as dipping into an underwhelming free agency this summer for forward help.

If the Rangers were to reward Zuccarello with a three year $7.5m package it would represent a huge raise but a deserved one and would still be under value for a borderline 60 point player. Zuccarello will be deservedly cashing in this summer; all that remains to see is by how much.

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30 Responses to “How long should the Rangers commit to Mats Zuccarello?”

  1. John says:

    Zucca deserved a new 3-4 year contract worth 4-4,5M per year. Anything else make no sense at all.

  2. SalMerc says:

    While his options are limited this year, it will not be good for either party if we try to squeeze Zucc. Three years at a minimum, but I thing more like $9M.

    • Walt says:

      That sounds like a win, win there. Zcc deserves a nice raise, but more than $3 mil, and 3 years may take away the desire that he showed this season!!!!

  3. Ray says:

    Actually Zuke’s stats sell him short. Almost every player who scored 60 or more points had more playing time. Interestingly, this past year, Zuke actually scored more points per minute than Martin St. Louis. MSL owes his higher point total to more playing time.

    I do believe that many of us here are not particularly surprised that Zuccarello was the Ranger scoring leader. Zuccarello is an inferior version of Wayne Gretzky, with Zuke having less zip on his shot and playing with more grit. He has phenomenal ice vision and a great talent for controlling the puck and putting it where he wants it to go. He doesn’t match the Great One in these skills, but neither is it right to compare him to mortals.

    I think that MSL’s beginning with the Rangers gives us some insight into Zuke’s beginnings. Players like MSL and Zuke take some getting used to. Teammate familiarity is important for optimal success.

    I think the Rangers will opt for their typical bridge deal, but I think they should treat Zuccarello like McDonagh – tie him up longer term.

    • RangerSmurf says:

      They can’t opt for the bridge because Zuke is arbitration eligible, and after being dicked around for years, you can be sure he’ll go to arbitration instead of letting Sather try to lowball him again.

      • Chris A says:

        Did he really lowball Zucc? It’s not like he had a long track record of being a productive NHL player. Zucc finally had a good year in the NHL and now he will be paid appropriately.

        Just because other teams have a penchant to bid against themselves and massively overpay when dealing with their own RFAs doesn’t mean the Rangers are wrong when they properly play hardball with their own RFAs.

        • RangerSmurf says:

          Well, I’m phrasing “not offered NHL contract” as a low-ball offer.

          • Chris A says:

            lol in that case, yes, you would be correct.

            Although, maybe that’s what Zuccs needed to get motivated for this season. Someone, either Hank or Zuccs I think, was quoted as saying that Zuccs was in vastly better shape this training camp than in previous years. I have a feeling there is some truth to that as the Zuccs we are watching this year is a completely different player from the one we had seen for parts of the past three seasons.

  4. RangerSmurf says:

    8/$32m.

    If that doesn’t work, 4/$14 would be nice.

    • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

      8 year commitment? What’s the precedent for a player that has less than 2 full seasons of NHL games? And why would hit the cap hit be lower if he took a shorter term deal?

  5. Lizzy says:

    As almost fans of NYR hope.. Zuccarello deserved only 3M per year..

    Its not fair.. NYR wants Zucca, but pay him?`No no..

    Its insane Zuccarello should earn less than Brassard! What have Brassard did without Zuccarello? Not much.

    If they offer him 3 M per year – hope they trade him.

  6. Chris A says:

    Zucc being eligible for UFA status after next season is a pretty big point that was left out. As an RFA this summer he’s worth about $3.8M, as a UFA he’s worth about $4.6M.

    Now, if the Rangers sign him long term this summer, Zucc is surrendering his most lucrative UFA years. The flip side is that he is taking guaranteed money and doesn’t have to worry about a slip in production next year costing him big time.

    Seeing as he is so similar in age, size, production and contract status to Nashville’s Patric Hornqvist and Montreal’s David Desharnais I would use those two players as comprables.

    Hornqvist signed a 5 year $21.25M ($4.25M Cap Hit) deal two years ago. Taking into account that Zucc produced a few more points than Hornqvist this year and that Hornqvist’s contract is from two years ago Zucc will likely ask for slightly more than this.

    The Rangers will likely open with a contract similar to David Desharnais’ 4 years at $14M ($3.5M cap hit). They are the exact same size, produce similar numbers, played almost exactly the same minutes/game this year but DD plays Center. DD signed that contract one year out from becoming a UFA which is exactly the situation Zucc is in this summer.

    In the end I see Zucc signing with the Rangers this summer for 5 years and $22.5M – $24M which places his cap hit between $4.5M per year and $4.8M per year. The 5 year deal is a good length for Zucc as it allows him a chance for one more big contract at age 31 if he’s still productive.

    • SalMerc says:

      Just can’t see signing anyone to 5 years unless they are scoring leaders year after year after year.

      • Chris A says:

        I just can’t see Zuccs signing a shorter deal. I think anything shorter than 5 years it would be better for him to go to arbitration, sign for one year then hit the open market the following summer.

  7. Nate says:

    2.5 mill after leading your team in scoring would be a slap in the face. People say Boyle who plays on the 4th line will get 2.5 mill.

  8. ttabasco13 says:

    i would answer this but i have a title to defend on this blog… off season challenge !!!

  9. Zen says:

    I can’t see getting Zucc back at $2.5M per. That would be awesome, but doubtful.

  10. Bloomer says:

    Sign Zuc to 3 year deal no more.

  11. NYI-fan says:

    Rangers fan is strange fans..

    Zuccarello get Steven MacDonald Extra Effort award. They hope Glen Sather resign Zuccarello, but on “Glen Sather Way” SIGN HIM – BUT DONT PAY HIM!

    Zuccarello has played mostly in 3rd line whole season – and he wins the “stats league” in the regular season at Rangers. That tells something about Zuccarello and his skills. Where is Nash and Richards..? And if Zuccarello have played all games in the regular sesaon he would have over 60 points!

    Hope Zuccarello find a new club in NHL, NYR-fans not deserved his skills and vision in games.

    Zuccarello deserved a new contract worth 4-4,5M per year. And not 3M per year as all fans of New York Rangers around Madison Square Garden hope.

    Best Regards from a NY Islanders-fan.

    • Chris F says:

      Zuccarello is a great player and an important anchor to the Rangers 3rd line. He has consistently been one of the hardest working Rangers all season.

      However, his near 60 point production is by no means a sure thing moving forward. He seems to be a far improved player than his last stint with the Rangers in which he was inconsistent and seemed a liability at times due to his size. Though I hope and do believe that the Zuccarello we see today is here to stay, it would be an irresponsible gamble to offer him big money for an extended contract. Even at $3 million per year, he’d be getting a large raise on his current salary in the form of a trial contract from the team that has continued to give him opportunities. If he continues his high level of play, he’ll land an even bigger contract in a few years. It’s not an insult to pay him $3 million next year.

      The Rangers don’t have the luxury that the Islanders do in having $15 million in excess cap space to play with every year.

      • NYI-fan says:

        Well.. Its hard for a Rangers-fan to see Zuccarello wins the stats in the regular season, and not Richards or Nash or someone else from US/Canada.

        Its hard for the Rangers organazation to see a player who earn 1,1M per year, is their best player. They have never expected that at all. So its hurt. How often can you read about Zuccarello on rangers.nhl.com or blushirtsunited.com for example? Not often.

        Zuccarello “saved” also money for NYR last year, so they could resign Stepan.

        And why should Zuccarello have a salary lower then Brassard? What have Brassard did without Zuccarello? Nothing!

        So if you see Glen Sather in the Garden tonight, tell him NYI can “take over” Zuccarello..

        • Chris F says:

          What are you talking about?

          I don’t give two sh!ts where a player is from. I love the Norwegian Hobbit. He’s been one of the most exciting Rangers players to watch this year. No one cares that he’s not American or Canadian.

          However, he’s extremely small, and has a history of inconsistency. One good year doesn’t earn you the right to get a mega-contract. His time will come when he proves he can sustain this level of play season-to-season.

          You need to get over your Scandinavian inferiority complex and understand that for teams with salary cap restrictions, tough choices need to be made. Hockey is a business for the organization, something Islanders fans wouldn’t quite understand as they haven’t had to make a meaningful business decision in 30 years.

          • LFOD Bleeding Blue in NH says:

            To be fair, check out some of the contracts his team has put forward. Especially to injury prone goalies.

            • Chris F says:

              We’re in the here and now. The right call is $3 million a year.

              That’s a fair deal for Zuke.

              • LFOD Bleeding Blue in NH says:

                Talking about the Isles fan and his tendency to view a contract as lower than he feels it should be.

              • Chris F says:

                Ah, I see…

                Sorry, read through that one a little quickly.

  12. SnakeX3 says:

    Great post and interesting question, Chris.

    This will seem odd to say, but what really made me a fan of Zucc was watching him in the Olympics. Any thought that his performance this season was contract related went out the window after that. He was clearly the best player on the ice every time he was out there. The guy has guts which is something the Rangers are very short on, especially now that Cally is gone.

    I’d spend more on him for fewer years then the other way around. I think 3.75 to 4.25 for 3 years would be a fair deal for both sides. I’d even go a bit higher if I had to as long as the deal is no longer then 3 seasons.

    Although I think this season is a fair representation of what he will contribute going forward, there is a very strong chance that this was his career year. If he continues to play at this level for 3 years the Rangers will have gotten their money’s worth and they can judge what he’s worth and where he fits into the team’s plans as a 30 y/o UFA. However, if his production falls off a contract in the $4m range isn’t going to be a big salary cap problem and he’d be a lot easier to move without a long term deal in place.