Luckily for me, this is a question that falls in the hands of New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton.
Since the 2013-14 season, Rangers’ forward Mats Zuccarello has been of the team’s best and most productive forwards. In those five seasons, Zuccarello has averaged about 56 points.
Not only has he produced, but he’s been a leader for this franchise both on and off the ice. In fact, I wrote a piece for this site awhile back saying that he should be the team’s next captain when the time comes to name a new one.
This is a guy who has been with the team for a very long time, someone who has had a lot of success both in terms of his play and the team’s play, and is a player that teammates seem to gravitate towards. Zuccarello has also been one of the team’s hardest working players and is someone who embodies a New Yorker as he is a grinder, not afraid of anyone, and stands tall when needed the most.
In looking at these things mentioned above, it is easy to see why it would be hard to move a player like this. Ranger fans love this guy with a capital L and if the team were to ever move him, I’m sure fans would be quite displeased.
With that said, however, there have been rumors surrounding Zuccarello being traded for awhile now. In fact, Zuccarello realizes this and in a piece penned by New York Post Rangers’ scribe Brett Cyrgalis, he explained that he is being realistic about the situation.
“There’s no secret that it’s out there. For me, I prepare for everything, try to do my best as long as I’m here. Hopefully I’m here for a long time. If not, it’s nothing I can control.”
There are a few reasons to keep Mats. For starters, when healthy, he is productive. He usually puts up between 50 and 60 points each year, plays in all situations, is responsible at both ends of the ice, and is someone who can come through when his team needs it the most.
He’s also a leader. This guy bleeds Ranger red, white, and blue and has been through it all with this franchise and would do everything and anything for his hockey club.
Zuccarello is also someone that has had a lot of experience with this franchise. He has been in the playoffs almost every season, been to the Conference Finals and a Cup Final, has played under two different head coaches, and has seen some of his best friends on the team come and go.
In that regard, he is someone that should be considered a fit for this rebuilding franchise. He is the perfect teammate to talk to with as he can tell the players on this rebuilding franchise what to do in certain situations and also tell them what it was like to play in many big games over the last eight seasons.
With all of that said, however, being a Ranger for his entire career my not be in the cards for Zuccarello. This team has a lot of youngsters both now and coming up that are going to need ice time, he’s been dealing with a groin issue for a while now, and when he’s been on the ice this season, he has not been very noticeable.
It should also be noted that he is in the final year of his four-year, $18 million contract. It would be bad for this team to lose him for nothing so when the deadline comes, it might be a good idea to use him as a trade piece because at 31 years of age and as someone who has played in many big games, he would be a valuable addition to a hockey club looking to make a run at the Cup.
As I mentioned earlier, this is going to be a tough decision for Gorton. Zuccarello has been a terrific Blueshirt and one that has also been the true leader of this hockey club for the last few seasons.
With that said, Gorton needs to think about what is going to be right for this franchise moving forward. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if Zuccarello is going to be part of the long-term plan for this hockey club.