Archive for Mats Zuccarello

So much has gone on around the league over the past few days it’s worth a brief muse because so much affects the Rangers.

Deadline prices are getting crazier by the year yet the talent level is increasingly worse. When a player (no matter how talented) who hasn’t played all season and is approaching 40 fetches a 2nd round pick and a conditional extra pick, prices are too rich for the Rangers. Kimmo Timonen was a fine player and can still play but you could see last year he had clearly lost a step. The Hawks felt he was worth the investment but the Rangers shouldn’t buy ‘a name player’ for the sake of it.

Who are the Rangers biggest threats in the East? The only team that intimidates me are Tampa. They can score in bunches, are quick and deep and Ben Bishop has often had the Rangers number regardless of the team he’s suited up for. Are they beatable? Yes, but the Rangers slack play in their own zone over the past few weeks would really be exposed by a team whose best player (Stamkos) is only just peaking.

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At last season’s trade deadline, the Rangers played chicken with their captain. Ryan Callahan was demanding a relatively outrageous contract extension that the Rangers were extremely hesitant to hand out. He was looking for top line dollars to play a well rounded, third line game. Down in Tampa, the Bolts’ long-time captain wasn’t feeling the love anymore. A first-ballot Hall of Famer left off the Olympic roster by his own GM. It was a recipe for bad blood.

Glen Sather was forced to make a choice between a legitimate top 6 upgrade or letting a homegrown, valuable player walk for nothing if his contract demands did not back down into reasonable territory. Ultimately, I still believe that Sather gave up too much ancillary value in the form of two first round picks, but such is life. The point is, it was appropriate for Sather to make that call in the middle of a competitive run. Upgrades are upgrades. Draft picks can be sorted out later. Read More→

Per Darren Dreger, cited on NBCSN, New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello is going to look for more than $5 million per year on a five-year deal for his contract extension. Zucc is the next Ranger in line for Glen Sather to lock up, having locked up Marc Staal earlier this year.  Zuccarello is a must-keep for the Rangers, as he is one of their best even strength producing forwards. Zucc’s production on the powerplay is down this year, but that’s mostly because PP2 has been a tire fire. The recent move to PP1 should help him produce more.

It’s important to note two things. First, Dreger isn’t reporting anything, he’s speculating. Second, Dreger is speculating Zucc’s opening offer. These are negotiations, and the opening offer is always higher than what the player will take. Brad Marchand is probably the best comparable for Zucc, since the production and roles are almost identical. Marchand signed his four-year deal at $4.5 million before last season, when the cap was lower ($64.3 million).

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Per Darren Dreger, the New York Rangers and winger Mats Zuccarello are involved in contract talks to keep the winger with the Rangers long-term. This is great news, as Zucc is one of those guys that you need to keep around (Chris disagrees). Dreger noted that the Rangers love Zucc, and want him here. They also won’t be trading him at the deadline if they can’t reach a deal by the March 2 trade deadline.

Take this news with a grain of salt, as the Rangers can always rethink trading him if there’s a good offer and the two sides are too far apart. But this is good news, as Zucc is a must keep. This also answers part of the Zucc, Carl Hagelin, or Martin St. Louis question.

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Henrik Lundqvist’s injury may have you feeling otherwise, but the Rangers remain in excellent shape to make the postseason. With an eight-point cushion over ninth-place Florida, securing a wild card berth shouldn’t be difficult even if overtaking the Penguins and Islanders for the Metro Division title may now be unrealistic.

Of course the team’s playoff hopes are pinned to Lundqvist, but there’s reason to believe the best is still ahead for the 2014-2015 Blueshirts – and it’s not because they’re sure to add an impact player by the trade deadline.

When you stop to think about it, how many players are really having standout seasons? Rick Nash, obviously. Kevin Klein has certainly exceeded expectations. Derek Stepan has been a point-per-game player when healthy. And Kevin Hayes has been a pleasant surprise as a rookie. Read More→

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Trade possibilities with Arizona

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Much of the early trade deadline fervor both around the league and in New York has been about what the Arizona Coyotes might do. GM Don Maloney has been screaming “WE ARE SELLERS” at the top of his lungs and Arizona has several attractive pieces, including pending free agent Antoine Vermette. Suit also suggested looking into Yotes defensemen Michael Stone. The Rangers are surely checking on Vermette, but Newsday’s Steve Zipay suggested that another member of the Coyotes, Martin Hanzal, might be a better fit for New York.

On the ice, he might be right. But as always, the financials come into play.

Vermette and Hanzal are very different players. Vermette brings scoring punch, having scored over 20 goals in four seasons. He’s that extra offensive weapon that many past versions of the Rangers would covet.
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Mats Zuccarello is not producing the goods. To some that’s a pretty inflammatory comment, but think about it for a moment. Zuccarello’s production is well down compared to last season’s impressive totals, and it’s not just because his powerplay numbers are down (an issue in its own right, covered today at noon). He’s simply not impacting games right now, and hasn’t for most of the season.

I saw a blog comment recently and the writer made a very valid point; given his linemates Zuccarello’s numbers should be much better. For the majority of the season he’s shared a line with Rick Nash, who had been on an All Star level tear, and has predominantly had Derek Stepan (close to a point per game himself) as his center, yet Zuccarello’s production is modest.

Thanks to several large, long term contracts, the Rangers face a struggle to retain Zuccarello at the end of this season. Regardless how you judge Zuccarello’s season so far, he’s surely going to expect a raise on his $3.5 million salary. He’ll also know that if he hits free agency he’ll get that raise he’s looking for because, to put it mildly, the upcoming free agent class is underwhelming at best. Remember what Benoit Pouliot got from the Oilers on the back of a solid but hardly All Star season?

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Yesterday I wrote how Marc Staal’s contract extension, combined with all other contracts on the books for next season, may mean that Carl Hagelin is the odd-man out for next year’s plans. Saying that people were divided on the issue would be an understatement. The loudest folks against dealing Hagelin were wondering why the Rangers would keep Mats Zuccarello.

But to be honest, this isn’t a choice of Zucc or Hagelin. They have different roles on this –emphasis on this– team. Zucc is a top-six forward, a guy that will produce and make his teammates better. Hagelin is a bottom-six guy who is counted upon to be a three-zone player and kill penalties.

Zucc is a proven quantity that can produce at even strength and on the powerplay in a top-six role. A common argument is that he is streaky, but even elite players are streaky. It’s hockey, streaks happen.

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Categories : Players
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Thoughts heading into All-Star Weekend

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After a tremendous stretch of hockey going all the way back to December 8 and winning 16 out of 19 games, the Rangers get a much deserved break for All-Star weekend. Once they get through the festivities, they face a tough trip to Long Island to get a second crack to show the upstart Islanders who New York’s real team is. Since there isn’t much specific analysis that the crew hasn’t covered since the OT win again Ottawa, I have some thoughts…

  • While I agree that the All-Star Game is kind of silly and since the implementation of the shootout, the Skills Competition has lost much of its luster, the All-Star Weekend is still a great concept for the host city. I was in Ottawa a couple years back when the All-Star Game was held there, and the whole city really came together in a celebration of hockey. We fans might not care at this point, but I’m sure the city of Columbus cares a great deal.
  • That said…those jerseys. Yikes. Remember the days when the All-Star jerseys were modeled after old school sweaters? Those were sharp. I’m sure even The Suit approved. These looks like the hockey equivalent of a site worker’s safety vest.
  • I’m glad Henrik Lundqvist decided to skip the weekend once Jimmy Howard went down. Over the past few seasons, he hasn’t gotten much in the way of rest this time of year. Between the Olympics and other All-Star festivities, he has been a busy guy in February. It’s only a couple days, but it could go a long way in recharging him for the stretch run.
  • You have to be impressed with Matt Hunwick’s play of late, no?

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Categories : Musings
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Midseason grades: the top six forwards

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It’s the half way point in the season and our collective egos are such that we like to hand out some mid-season grades to your New York Rangers. Dave got the ball rolling with the goaltending and coaching grades and I have been tasked with the top six forwards so let’s jump on in.

Rick Nash: 40GP 26G 15A 41Pts +17 4 GWG 4 PPG 3SHG

There really is only one player to start with and that’s the NHL’s leading goal scorer. Nash has had a first half to dream of. He’s been healthy, he’s been dominant at both ends of the ice, he’s been consistent (including a point streak of 11 games), he’s been clutch and he’s been everything you could ask for in a potential Hart Trophy candidate. That’s the level Nash has been at – Hart Trophy level.

Club bias aside I – and many others – think Nash could reasonably be in the mix for four major pieces of hardware at the end of the season: Hart (MVP), Selke (defensive forward), Ted Lindsay award (players MVP) and the Richard trophy (top goal scorer). Having a breath taking year.

Grade: A+

Derek Stepan: 28GP 6G 21A 27pts +9 8 PPP 4 SHP

Stepan is a difficult one to grade. He still hasn’t developed in the faceoff circle (something that  is holding him back from being a legitimate top line center), and he needs to use his shot more; he passes up on far too many quality shooting opportunities, but as a playmaker Stepan has elevated his game to another level this year.

Stepan’s passing and vision are routinely excellent and he didn’t show much rust coming back from his injury. Averaging almost a point per game, Stepan has shown real consistency in his play as a pass first center while he has made a real difference on both special teams units. Wherever Stepan is, he usually has made a positive difference. If he would shoot a little more he would be even more dangerous.

Grade B+

Marty St Louis: 40GP 14G 18A 32pts 12PPP

St Louis is no longer the top line, 100 point winger he once was however he’s still proving he can be a force on the ice and has shown that he’s a leader on this relatively young Rangers team. St Louis has been streaky this year and has had games where he has been completely invisible, something that the Rangers have been able to tolerate because they’ve received fairly balanced scoring this year. However, despite the occasional goal scoring drought and playing in Nash’s shadow, St Louis is still closing in on another 60+ point season which for a player approaching his 40th birthday is hugely impressive.

St Louis is still lethal on the powerplay, he still commands the attention of the opposition and he is still capable of scoring in bunches something that only really he and Nash can do on this Ranger team. St Louis has been good. Hopefully his best will come at the end of the year.

Grade B

Chris Kreider: 38GP 8G 12A 20pts +9 83Hits

If these grades were based on the last week or two, Kreider’s would be more positive but they’re not. Kreider has endured an inconsistent, frustrating and difficult year and yet he still has a chance to set a career high in goals, assists and points with a solid second half. Perhaps the expectations were too high, but Kreider has struggled in his own end, has endured long slumps, has played recklessly and has been somewhat of a turnover machine. With that all said we’ve seen Kreider dominate teams when he’s on his game, he’s physically imposing and offers the Rangers (and the opposition) something only Rick Nash can do on this team. If Kreider has a strong second half – assuming Nash and St Louis are still firing – it would likely mean the Rangers are flying through the schedule.

Grade C

Derick Brassard: 38GP 11G 22A 33pts 14 PPP

Brassard has finally developed a level of consistency that does his talent justice (although I haven’t yet forgiven him for his horrendous follow up miss against the Isles). While he has undoubtedly been the beneficiary of Rick Nash’s return to prominence he has also helped Nash do what he has done. Brassard has shown an incredible array of passing, creativity perhaps only rivalled by Mats Zuccarello and has been a powerplay monster with 14 points with the extra man – tops on the Rangers.

Brassard has been much like Stepan, the owner of a wicked shot that he should use more. This season we’ve started to see him do just that – shoot – and no shock, he’s begun to rack up the points. Brassard is on course to smash his career highs in all major categories and is proving Glen Sather’s faith in him to be a smart investment. Brassard has been dynamic, a bargain at 5m, and has fully established himself as a top six center, and on a contending team no less.

Grade A

Mats Zuccarello: 38GP 7G 15A 22pts +11

Zuccarello has been inconsistent this year but even during spells where he wasn’t producing he has almost never been found lacking in effort. I still struggle to decide whether Zuccarello is a great third line winger or worthy of a permanent top six spot. At times he has struggled to follow up on his break out year of 2013-14 but still, has been one of the Rangers more dangerous players.

Zuccarello has made minimal impact on special teams but his production at even strength has been relatively consistent; he may be the victim of others succeeding on the PP in his place. Zuccarello is similar in one way to Kreider; if coach Vigneault can generate some consistency from him then the Rangers would be in an envious position.

You see Zuccarello’s talent, his on ice vision and hustle and you can’t help wanting more even expecting more out of him, which perhaps is somewhat unfair. With a strong second half there’s still an outside change Zuccarello can flirt with a second 50 point season. Not bad for an undrafted undersized Norwegian.

Grade B-

The most exciting part of the top six’ performances thus far is that there appears room for improvement. Kreider, Zuccarello and St Louis all have had difficult times this season although every member of the top six have played well at least in spurts. If the Rangers can have their top two lines all firing at the same time, there’s very excit

Categories : Forwards
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