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Signing Mats Zuccarello, at the right price, was the right move for the Rangers

Bobby Bevilacqua

Flyers at Rangers

The Rangers made the right decision in re-signing Mats Zuccarello, keeping the Norwegian in NYC for the next four seasons. Photo courtesy of Paul J. Bereswill/NY Post.

On March 2nd during a press conference, Glen Sather formally announced the finalization of a four year contract extension with Norwegian winger Mats Zuccarello worth $18 million (4.5 AAV), and including a no trade clause in the first year of the deal. Rangers GM Glen Sather remarked on how much he liked and respected Zuccarello.

“I like everything about him – his tenacity, his hard work, his seeing the ice, the way he plays, the chemistry he brings to our team and the way he is in the dressing room,” said Sather. “He’s been a perfect player for us.”

Quite high praise from Sather. But Zuccarello truly deserves it. Last season, he was the Rangers leading scorer, with 19 goals and 40 assists, helping the team get into the playoffs. While he will not match that production this year, he is still having a solid year, and is a key reason that guys like Rick Nash and Derick Brassard are having tremendous success.

Zuccarello, or as the fans like to call him, “Zuuuuuuuucccc,” is not only a skilled player, he wears his heart on his sleeve, is one of the hardest workers on the ice, and doesn’t let his size get in the way of his physical game. He is extremely popular with the fans, as well as amongst his teammates and is a big part of the locker room repertoire.

“I am glad it worked out,” Rangers head coach said regarding the extension. “He’s a very competitive, highly-skilled, who I think is only going to get better. I am very happy that we have him locked up here.”

Last season, Zuccarello was part of the Rangers deadly third line, but Vigneault has entrusted him with a bigger role on the Rangers top line, where he has settled in nicely alongside Derick Brassard and Rick Nash. He has 37 points (12-25-37), with two assists in last night’s game. He has 14 points (5-9-14) in his last 16 games.

But Zuccarello’s contributions go way beyond just numbers. His line is very good possession wise, and they spend a lot of time in the opponent’s zone, which can be inferred by the 63 goals scored between the three of them.

zuccarello and nash 12-23

Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash have worked extremely well together this season, creating what has been almost a goal-a-game top line, with 63 goals between Nash, Brassard, and Zuccarello. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

My main concern when contract negotiations were going on was the dollar amount. The Rangers are already up against the cap, and have to resign Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin after this season, two other extremely important players to the team.

Originally, the rumors were that Zuccarello was demanding over $5 million, upwards of $5.5 million. That was likely his agent bargaining for more, but Zuccarello wanted to stay a Ranger.

“I told [my agents] enough is enough, I’m happy with the offer and it’s important for me to stay here in a long time,” Zuccarello said to reporters following the win over the Predators. “You always heard me say that I wanted to stay. When the offer came, I said yes. This is the right fit for me.”

It’s really awesome to see Zuccarello willing to take less money to stay on the team that he loves, and the team that he has found success on. The Rangers have built a winning culture around a group of young players that all want to create their own success, and it’s a great thing to see.

Also, by the time that Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes will require new contracts, which is after next season, the Rangers will have sother contracts expiring at that point, so it’s not as big of a concern as I had initially thought.

When you compare Zuccarello’s $4.5 million in salary to other wingers around the league making that kind of money, it actually looks like Sather got a bargain.

Zukes equal salary corsi comparison

Mats Zuccarello outperforms most of the wingers in his pay range. Photo courtesy of Blueshirt Banter/Adam Herman.

 

The chart can be read like this: All numbers are at even strength. A circle farther to the right means a higher goals for/goals against ratio while that player is on the ice. Being higher up vertically on the chart means that player is generating more points/60 minutes of ice time. And the more blue that a circle is, that means that player’s possession numbers are higher than most of his teammates (Dark blue = better than most teammates, light blue = worse than most teammates.

With that out of the way, the stats show that Zuccarello is pretty high on all ends of the spectrum; a strong goals for/goals against average, a high level of points/60 minutes, and strong possession numbers. Zuccarello could be considered a near elite possession player, and you see that in his game every night. Only Hartnell and Ladd are close, and Ladd will be paid a lot more money when his contract is up in 2017.

This also means that Zuccarello is outplaying practically all of the players in his pay range under this new contract. His stats alsohold up when compared to wingers in the $5-$6 million range, and even then his performance still holds up.

zukes higher salary corsi comparison

Zuccarello holds up well to some tremendous talent, that happen to be making more money than him. Photo courtesy of Blueshirt Banter/Adam Herman.

 

Zuccarello is either better or in the same company as some really good players, who are all making more money than him. And if you look at the stats from the start of last season, he still ranks near the top.

zukes higher salary 2 year corsi comparison

Zuccarello’s stats are not a fluke; he’s been playing extremely well since the start of last season. Photo courtesy of Blueshirt Banter/Adam Herman.

 

Zuccarello is not a superstar per say, but he is right below the likes of some well-respected and very talented players in the league, and the charts just back that up. Glen Sather got a really great deal on this signing.

This chart doesn’t even factor in everything else Zuccarello does for the team, bringing his energizing presence, his never-back-down attitude, and his ability to make things happen on every shift to each game. A big hit in the locker room and with the fans, not only did the Rangers lock up a productive player for four more years, they also got the sparkplug type of player that is Mats Zuccarello.

There are no such things as guarantees in sports contracts, but this move will likely be one that the Rangers will look back on, and know they did the right thing.

mats zuccarello first star 3-2

Worry not Rangers fans, Zuuuuuuuuuccccccs is a Ranger for four more seasons. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

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Posted on March 4, 2015, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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