New York Rangers have to sign Mats Zuccarello
Bruno Rouby, ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

As the New York Rangers kick off the David Quinn era, the team must decide on Mats Zuccarello’s future with the organization.

With the 2018-19 season just around the corner, the New York Rangers have a serious situation concerning one of the most popular players on the team. Mats Zuccarello will become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end which leads to the most undesirable situation in Rangerstown. Should the team sign or trade the playmaking left wing?

Zuccarello, who will turn 31-years old on Sept. 1, is in the fourth and final year of an $18 million deal he signed in 2015. His annual average salary is $4.5 million for this season. He will be entering his ninth season in New York, appearing in 463 games with 213 assists and 315 points.

Zuccarello recorded 16 goals, 37 assists for 53 points appearing in 80 games last season. His playmaking ability makes him one of the best passers in the game as he recorded 16 assist on the power plays out of his 37 total on the season last year. A leader on the ice in any capacity, Zuccarello would be a huge asset as the team’s youth movement takes center stage.

Aside from goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, Zucc’s best friend on the team, Mats is the face of the New York Rangers. A player who is involved in charities for kids off the ice, the Oslo, Norway native has made Broadway his home and it would seem almost inconceivable to see him in another jersey. Then again the same was said of Brian Leetch, days before he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in March 2004.

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The debate seems to be the value of a player like Zuccarello. A hard-nosed forward who never shies from a battle in the corners or in front of the net, the feisty winger plays taller than his 5-foot-8 frame indicates. He stands up for all of his teammates, leads the power play and probably is the most reliable player in the lineup.

General manager Jeff Gorton and the hierarchy of the Rangers organization must evaluate what they believe Zuccarello is worth and then see if they can find common ground with Zuccarello’s camp. Time is of the essence right now as he can walk away from the team with his unrestricted free agent status at the end of the season.

Zuccarello was in multiple trade rumors as the trade deadline approached this past February as the team traded Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller, and Rick Nash to name a few. Zuccarello was never dealt and since then the talk of him being traded has quieted down substantially since the season ended in April.

Now, as the team prepares to embark on their youth movement, this team needs a player with the skills and demeanor of Zuccarello’s stature. He would be so beneficial to the young players on this team and can continue to bring out the best in players such as Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. A rebuilding team doesn’t mean the organization decides to get rid of all the veteran players on the team. It is a combination of new players, your Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson kind of players, and takes a core of veterans, Kreider, Vesey, Staal and others, and mold the whole unit into a stronger, aggressive team. Zuccarello is the one player who has the ability and attitude to make this all work.

The New York Rangers need to sign Zuccarello to a two-year deal. Find a number that works for both sides and put this debate of staying or going to bed. It’s a major distraction to the new coaching staff and the team in general. Should this linger into the new year, the team will need to figure out what to do with Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes (another unrestricted free agent at season’s end).

The team doesn’t need any more obstacles in its way. The organization believes it has a chance to be better than most people will give it credit for. Zuccarello will help the team now and in the future.

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