In October Mats Zuccarello was sent down to the AHL and by November the rumors of Zuccarello looking for a way out of the Rangers’ organization were at full force. It seemed to be a foregone conclusion that Zuccarello, if not traded elsewhere at the trading deadline, would move on to another organization (perhaps back in Europe) in the summer.
But injuries to Artem Anisimov and Ryan Callahan gave Zuccarello an unexpected last shot at proving he belonged in the Rangers’ lineup. And everyone in the Rangers’ organization seems to be happy with his play. Keep reading to see what John Tortorella and Glen Sather have to say about Zuccarello.
Tortorella was asked about Zuccarello’s play since being called up during his post-game press conference last night and had the following to say:
He has certainly show us that he can get in on the forecheck. He looks quicker. We all know that he has offense. I just think that he feels more confident away from the puck and the biggest thing for me, for where I can keep putting him on the ice, is that he is getting to pucks and sustaining offense. He is a dangerous player with the puck. It’s his defending away and him getting to pucks and I think he done both of those a lot more consistently than when he was here before”
Furthermore, Tortorella spoke to Michael Kay and Don La Greca on ESPN 1050 today and told them that Zuccarello “would be in the lineup” if the playoffs “started tomorrow.”
Of course, there are still nine games left in the season and things can change very quickly for John Tortorella. But it seems that for the time being Zuccarello turned a temporary call-up into an extended stay in the lineup.
But what about beyond this season? Zuccarello is a restricted free agent at the end of the year. Despite the circulating rumors of his inevitable departure, Zuccarello told Norwegian press earlier in the season that his goal was to succeed in the NHL as a Ranger and that he would be happy to stay so long as the team assured him he was a part of the “plan” long-term. So is Glen Sather interested in making Mats a part of the team beyond this year?
“We want to resign him,” Glen Sather told beat writer Andrew Gross. Sather went on to say, however, that the Rangers tend to wait until the offseason when figuring out contracts, and implied that this would be the case for Zuccarello. Zuccarello seems to be open to the idea of sticking around as well. Mats told Gross that his “first choice is to stay” in North America but that he “can’t think about it right now.”
Of course, mutual interest is not going to automatically result in a contract as there will surely be multiple question marks from both sides. How much money do the Rangers want to commit to a player who is still unproven at the NHL level? For Mats, another NHL team could provide him a more secure spot in the lineup while teams in Europe can and will offer him more money. It could very well be that Zuccarello’s future is elsewhere regardless of what he does from now until July. But with all that said, the potential for a Mats Zuccarello success story in New York has been revitalized.