It is tough to say goodbye to many of the Rangers traded at this deadline. Fortunately, New York didn’t have to part with their heart and soul.
Mats Zuccarello is still a Ranger and it wasn’t a hard decision to make. Of all the players moved at the deadline, the one who shouldn’t have been was Zuccarello. Luckily, he wasn’t. Ryan McDonagh Rick Nash, Michael Grabner, J.T. Miller and Nick Holden all got traded. Even though he was in a similar contract situation to McDonagh, he was kept.
The Rangers are fully committed to a rebuild. Their process during the deadline certainly backs that statement made by Jeff Gorton and Glen Sather a few weeks ago. For the first time in a long time, New York is all in on the future. No more trading picks for veterans, instead, the Rangers are trading veterans and even younger talent for picks.
Mats Zuccarello’s name was tossed around in deadline rumors. However, he is still a Ranger. With a team in desperate need of leadership now more than ever, Zuccarello is the perfect player to have on the roster. Not just for the rest of this season, but for years to come.
Heart and Soul
It’s easy for me to see Zuccarello wearing a captains C on his chest. It makes a ton of sense. Outside of Henrik Lundqvist, there is no player on the Rangers who consistently brings roars of applause like Zuccarello. Just recently, in the teams home game against the Detroit Red Wings, Zuccarello absorbed a hit from Xavier Oullett, dumped him into his own bench with just his legs over the ice and then pushed him all the way into the bench.
The crowd roared. It was the fourth loudest cheer of the night behind two goals and the announcement from Rod Gilbert that Vic Hadfield would have his number retired in the 2018-19 season. What it also showed was typical Mats Zuccarello.
No matter what, he brings it night in and night out. As undersized as Zuccarello is, his tenacity and physicality are leaps and bounds above. In fact, I would say that there hasn’t been a Ranger in the last five years (again save for Lundqvist) who can match the intensity of Zuccarello on a regular basis. He is, without a doubt the heart and soul of the Rangers and so much more than just a crowd favorite.
Zucc will never be an elite franchise player. He will always be a good NHLer. But, what is most important is that the Rangers are in rebuilding mode. This means acquiring elite talent, but it also means veteran leadership to mold younger guys.. The elite talent will come, but Zuccarello is the type of personality you want to build around.
Just keep producing
As tough as it would be to see Zuccarello go from a fans perspective, it would be equally tough to see him go from a production perspective. I am not advocating that Zuccarello needed to stay solely because he was beloved by the fans. But the reality is, over the last five seasons no Ranger has had more points than the 271 that Zucc has posted. He has led the team in scoring three of the last four years. Currently, because of the trade with Tampa Bay, Zucc is second only to Vladislav Namenstnikov on the team with 43 points.
Zuccarello is so much more than a crowd favorite. He is the Rangers most consistent forward as well. His point totals haven’t fluctuated much since he started getting starters ice time five seasons ago. He is a pass first player with playmaking ability that is off the charts. He would probably post 70-80 points if he was paired on a line with a pure goal scorer.
During a rebuild, things won’t be easy. There will be sometimes when fans question whether the team made the right decision. That’s why Zuccarello is needed, he is a constant. He has the fire and character to get through tough moments. Not only that, but he will continue to produce no matter what.must-havemust have for New York and seeing him make it through the deadline is a big step in the right direction.