As the New York Rangers approached the NHL trade deadline Glen Sather and his staff looked at the issues they needed to fix before April 3rd came and went. One of the biggest issues they pinpointed was bottom-six depth. The Rangers ended up addressing those concerns at the deadline by acquiring Ryan Clowe, Derick Brassard, John Moore and Derek Dorsett.
But before any of that happened Sather made a savvy move that didn't cost him any assets. He signed Mats Zuccarello to a contract one his team was eliminated from the KHL playoffs.
Zuccarello was expected to do three things. He was brought in to give the Rangers some more botom six depth, he was expected to bring some creativity to the bottom six and he was supposed to help boost the power play. To this point, he's done all three of those things.
The Rangers have since made significant strides in almost all the areas they were struggling in earlier in the year. Yes, Clowe and Brassard have been major factors there -- as has Moore, but in a much different way -- but so has Zuccarello.
In five games this year Zuccarello has two assists. But it's more than just the points for him. He's been dangerous in the offensive zone, he's helped the Rangers' transition game immensely and he's also been grittier in the tougher areas of the ice.
He's creative, has had a few true scoring chances and makes things happen on the power play. For a team that has desperately needed creativity on the third line, Zuccarello has been just what the doctor ordered.
Another factor? His play away from the puck has been much improved from last year. He's played an average of just under 15 minutes in the five game's he's been with the big club. That's a pretty big jump from the 10 minutes a game he averaged last year. And it's a testament to the way he's played this year.
The Rangers are a much deeper team now than they were before the brass made these three moves. Whether or not they're better is up for debate, but it's very hard to argue that the Rangers aren't deeper. Zuccarello has been a big part of that depth. That depth has helped the Rangers earn five of a possible six points in their past three games. And those points have been vital to the Rangers playoff run.
Sometimes big things come in small places. That's been the story of Zuccarello's NHL career.
Now let's see if that story continues.