One of the reasons why the New York Rangers were able to play in their first Stanley Cup since 1994 is from their depth. The third line of Derrick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot caused havoc on the ice thanks to a great blend of chemistry and ability to make plays on the dime.
Entering this offseason, all three of these players will enter free agency. While keeping the whole line would be ideal, it wouldn’t come as a shock if Brassard or Pouliot would chase the cash somewhere else. But for Zuccarello, a man who says he wants to be a lifetime Ranger, he’s the most important signing the team will make this offseason.
Before we go into the details, general manager Glen Sather got a steal when he signed Zuccarello to a one-year, $1.5 million contract last year. The Norwegian led the Rangers in points (59), good for 52nd in the NHL this season.
A positive about Zuccarello’s contract situation is that he’s a restricted free agent who wants to stay. The Rangers have 11 players to sign with $42 million to work with including Zuccarello. “Zuke,” after bouncing around between the AHL and NHL, has played his way to a contract for three years worth $3-4 million per year.
This would be a smart contract for a number of reasons. Zuccarello is only 27 and in the prime of his career, and he’s proven all year that this season wasn’t a fluke. When he was younger he showed flashes of his potential but was only known for his shootout skills. Thanks to a new coach with a new system and a stint overseas, “Zuke” is now an important piece to the Rangers’ championship puzzle.
If the Rangers play hardball with Zuccarello and try to sign him for cheaper than his value, it would be as dumb as when the Rangers drafted Hugh Jessiman 12th overall in the 2003 NHL Draft. “Zuke” gives the Rangers playmaking ability on their lower lines, and re-signing him would keep the Blueshirts at the top of the Eastern Conference for the foreseeable future.