It’s Official: Rangers Shopping Zuccarello

The news that New York Ranger fans were collectively dreading hit the Internet this morning.  After months of speculation and stalled contract talks, the Rangers confirmed that they are indeed shopping Mats Zuccarello.

 An Integral Part of the Team

There’s no doubt that Zuccarello brings more to this Rangers team than just his stats.  He has been one of the most consistent Blueshirts over the past two seasons. And while his scoring is down from last season, his play away from the puck remains solid. He can always be counted on to make smart hockey plays. Whether or not he is putting the puck in the net, his loss would create a hole in the Rangers lineup that will not be easily replaced, if at all.

Salary Cap Realities

In an earlier post, we talked about the realities of the salary cap, and how the Rangers will have precious little room next summer. It appears that there is roughly a $1 million gap between what Glen Sather is willing to pay and what Zuccarello is asking for. In essence, the Rangers are willing to pay Zuccarello $4.5 million per year, where he has been asking for somewhere between $5 and $5.5 million.

To let go of a player who means so much to this year’s team over such a small gap is akin to cutting off one’s nose to spite their face. It’s hard to see anything coming back the other way that makes the Rangers a better team this season. Rather, the loss of Zuccarello would hurt the Rangers chances to make a strong playoff run.

Will a Move be Made?

While it’s no secret that Glen Sather does not bluff on contract matters (just ask Ryan Callahan), he is also more shrewd than many give him credit for. He will not move Zuccarello just for the sake of moving him.  There has to be a decent return–and one that does not hurt the team short-term. Pat Leonard of the NY Daily News had probably the most realistic take on the situation:

The Fallout

There are two distinct camps on social media right now.  Ranger fans who mostly agree that the Rangers should not, under any circumstances, trade Zuccarello and fans of other teams who are salivating at the prospect of the 5’7″ Norwegian winger coming their teams’ way.

So, is this just gamesmanship by Glen Sather, or is he seriously considering ripping the heart out of this team to prove a $500K point? We’ll know in less than 48 hours. Until then, all we can do is wait and hope that both parties can step off the ledge before they take the New York Rangers’ Stanley Cup chances down with them.