The New York Rangers added some depth at the forward positions during yesterday's free agent frenzy, signing Benoit Pouliot and Dominic Moore to $1,300,000 and $1,000,000 contracts respectively. While neither Pouliot nor Moore are names that make you grab your dog by the scruff of his neck and scream "Let's go Rangers" out of excitement directly into his fluffy, terrified face, they are solid pick-ups in a relatively shallow free agency pool. Pouliot posted surprising numbers in the 2012-2013 season with the Tampa Bay Lightning with 8 G and 12 A in 34 GP. Now those numbers should be taken with so many grains of salt that any credible medical practitioner would berate you for consuming because Pouliot spent the majority of his time on the ice with players such as Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, and Vincent Lecavalier. (Source: LeftWingLock) I could probably slip a few pucks past the goalie if I had teammates like that feeding me and I don't even know how to skate (Some may consider this a mild disadvantage). Pouliot will likely see bottom-6 minutes on a healthy Rangers roster but he is a good addition nonetheless. Also, he addresses a major need for a French-Canadian name on the club so Alain Vigneault won't be lonely.
Dominic Moore will be returning to the team that lovingly drafted him 95th overall in 2000, then lovingly traded him to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2006, then proceeded to lovingly watch him undertake the Great North American Tour with the Wild, Maple Leafs, Sabres, Panthers, Canadiens, Lightning, and Sharks. All quips aside, Dominic Moore has endured a lot in his life recently and I am greatly looking forward to seeing him return to the ice. He is a great guy, a great story, and a great signing for the Rangers. He is a talented penalty killer and an OUTSTANDING faceoff man. His work on the dot has been north of 50% for the past 6 seasons on multiple teams. Dominic Moore is a tough guy not to like in the first place, but I say we all root just a little bit harder for him this season.
Now after reading all of that I'm sure you're saying to yourself, "Well, it's official. Insanity must run in Digger's family since the title of this post clearly mentions Mats Zuccarello but all I am reading is ‘Pooly-ot this' and ‘Johnminic Moore that!'" Cool down hotshot, it's called exposition and it is a sweet appetizer. These signings have some big repercussions on the New York Rangers who still have vital players to re-sign this offseason but are facing a dwindling cap with roster spots to fill. This could mean that a rather big deal is in the works, that some familiar faces might be trimmed from the roster, or that Sather forgot how math works. Now, while losing Stepan (Ouch) or McDonagh (Right in the feels) would be devastating and borderline-criminal, I don't see it happening. In my opinion it is much more likely that a player like Mats Zuccarello will draw the short stick, and that was not an intentional height/hockey stick pun but in retrospect I really wish it was.
Is it worth re-signing Mats Zuccarello? No doubt Glen Sather is listlessly spinning in his exquisite wheely-chair, mulling over this very dilemma. Now let me paint you a hypothetical here and say that I gain access to Sather's office via legal means and get to tell him my opinion on the Zuccarello situation. I'd stare right into those cold eyes that have broken the spirits of thousands of men and say "Yes Glen, sign that beautiful Norwegian warlock." I'd then caress his cheek delicately, slide a Queen of Diamonds playing card into his breast pocket, and slip out onto the fire escape like a whispering shadow. The following morning, headlines the world over would warn of the Queen of Diamonds Bandit.
Mats Zuccarello is a damn good hockey player. Is he big? No. Is he one-dimensional? Pretty much, yes. However, Zuccarello possesses silky hands, eyes that can see so much it makes Sauron jealous, and he is scrappy! Zucc wanted to fight Zdeno Chara in a non-sarcastic, non-ironic fashion! He ruffles feathers! He is the kind of player who will go from 60 to 0 after crossing the blueline, saucer a puck across the ice tape-to-tape, freak out when the goal light goes on, and then wink at the goalie because he has moxie. This team needs moxie! Zucc also has the potential to flourish in Alain Vigneault's new system and I feel it would be a mistake to let him go. Not only does he have creative and effective offensive upside, he can provide it at a low cost. Despite a good performance last season, Zuccarello didn't do enough to justify a massive pay raise. If the Rangers can sign him for a multi-year deal ranging anywhere from $1.25-1.8 million per then it would be golden. I also fear that Mats Zuccarello is precisely the kind of player that the Rangers would let slip through their hands only to watch him light it up like it's the 4th of July on some other team.
I would love to see the Rangers sign Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, and Mats Zuccarello for the long run as Rangers. Now you might have noticed that I omitted Carl Hagelin from that list, and it pains me to do so. I love Hagelin and I respect his game and his heart, but, in my opinion, Zuccarello provides a bigger benefit to the New York Rangers than Carl Hagelin. If Sather can figure out a way to keep all these pieces intact then I'll be a happy man. Unfortunately, there are always cap casualties that hurt to make but benefit the team as a whole, and if it comes down to a decision between Hagelin and Zuccarello I truly believe Zucc wins this one.
Thanks guys and gals. I'd love to hear your take on this and as always Let's Go Rangers.
Also, keep your eyes on the sky for the Queen of Diamonds Bandit.