One of the biggest (and best) acquisitions Glen Sather made by the trade deadline last year was signing Mats Zuccarello. Zuccarelo left the Rangers for a one year KHL contract last summer, and once his season was over the Rangers brought him back for the playoff run.
The move was a big success. Zuccarello scored three goals and added five assists for eight points in 15 regular season games. He added a goal and six assists for seven points in 12 playoff games.
Here's the deal with Zuccarello: He brings offensive creativity the Rangers desperately needed. At 25 he's still a very young option and he fit in perfectly despite being gone for an entire season. I speculated earlier in the year that Zuccarello's time in the KHL helped him take the next step this season. Some of you disagreed with me, but I do think getting big minutes in a very good professional league let him evolve into an even better player.
Zuccarello's contract was worth $700,00 this year, and you can expect he would get a pretty sizable raise if the Rangers were interested in bringing him back. They have the cap space, and it's not like Zuccarello is going to break the bank anyway, so my guess is Sather is more mulling over the length rather than the dollars. It should also be noted that Zuccarello is a restricted free agent, so other teams interested in him would need to pay the Rangers compensation.
To me, Zuccarello is worth bringing back (unless he makes crazy trade demands). We've talked a lot about how the Rangers were much better when they got deeper as a team, and Zuccarello is a huge part of that depth.
Another factor? The power play. The Rangers man advantage is far more lethal when Zuccarello is one the ice. His elusiveness and his vision was simply on a different level in the playoffs, and the Rangers power play only succeeded (when it did) because of him. He had three power play assists in the playoffs. For a team that couldn't score to save their lives with the man advantage, that figure is massive.
Sometimes with free agents the only thing you need to do is answer one question: Is the team better with or without [Player X]?
In Zuccarello's case the answer is easily "better with him." To many (myself included) the answer is "much better with him."
What do you guys think? Should the Rangers keep Zuccarello or drop him?