It has been a year of emotion for Mats Zuccarello.
He’s gone from struggling out of the gate, to admitting his likely impending trade was impacting his play, to surging back to normal Zuccarello, to the tune of 13 points in his last eight games. The 31 year old winger went from having a down year at the worst time to flying high at the best time, and currently has 27 points in 36 games. He’s a career 0.68 point per game player who is suddenly pacing out at what would be a career high 0.75 PPG this year.
His name has been thrown around a lot, and for good reason. Zuccarello is a fantastic player, a great guy in the room, has consistently posted 50-point seasons, and has a slew of playoff experience in the bank. He’s exactly the type of player contenders go after at the deadline, and is almost the perfect rental.
But again, his name has been throw around a lot. So let’s try to break it all down so we know what we’re dealing with.
Who could be interested in Zuccarello?
At this point it’s safe to say anyone in a playoff position or damn near one would benefit from Zuccarello’s services.
He’s an exceptional passer who doesn’t shoot enough, but his style of play literally meshes with almost anyone. He’s a versatile player who can fill almost any hole or solve any problem a team needs fixed before the playoffs.
Have a struggling shooter? Put him on a line with a shoot-first guy and watch him rack up the assists.
Power play not running well? Throw him with your top unit and watch the puck movement flow like water from a pipe.
Need to bolster your offense away from your top line? Trade for a guy who has the vision and skills to literally pass to guys before they’re on the damn ice.
Let's watch Mats Zuccarello anticipate & execute a backhanded breakaway pass for a teammate SITTING ON THE BENCH ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? pic.twitter.com/RJJP4Xr5mm— Adam Herman (@AdamZHerman) February 24, 2017
But this is still too broad, so let’s narrow the scope.
Teams who have been linked to Zuccarello
Edmonton: Zuccarello to the Oilers feels like some type of sick joke. For a guy like Zuccarello, who has given so much of his soul to this organization and fanbase, moving him to Edmonto would be a slap in the face.
Two things about that:
1) Hockey is a business and if the best offer came from Edmonton then, sorry Zucc, but the best offer came from the Oilers.
2) Edmonton’s current situation has changed since Elliotte Friedman first shed light that Peter Chiarelli kicked the tires on him.
Edmonton is in a strange position. There’s no longer a general manager who feels he needs to make the playoffs to keep his job since, well, Chiarelli no longer has a job. That said, Edmonton needs a win here and they need one sooner rather than later. Righting the ship, not missing the playoffs again with the league’s best player, and instilling some level of confidence in this “look at the new coat of paint and ignore it’s the same car” management group might go a long way.
The brass of Edmonton has put on a good face that they’re not looking for quick fixes, but based on what’s available around the market, Zuccarello is likely a discounted rental when comparing the likes of Kevin Hayes, Mark Stone, or Artemi Panarin. Edmonton currently sits just three points out of the final wild card spot, so it’s not like they’re out of the running, but it’s a war over there. Seven teams are within five points of one another for those two wild card spots, which complicates matters.
Pairing Zuccarello with Conor McDavid though? That’s a game-changer. It’s not saying much with McDavid, since he would make me a competent hockey player if I were on his line, but with the cost of assets flowing around for the bigger names this might be a perfect fit.
Edmonton has a nice pool of assets and have been quietly/not so quietly shopping Jesse Puljujarvi for about a month and a half. Is there a fit there? It’s possible.
Calgary: This one is another link from our good friend Mr. Friedman. On 31 Thoughts: The Podcast this week he put two and two together:
Friedman linking Zucc to Calgary on the latest 31 Thoughts podcast:— You're Fired, Phil (@PhilKocher) January 31, 2019
“I think Calgary might have some interest in Zuccarello, or something like that there, as a depth guy. I think Calgary is looking for some depth on the wing.”#NYR
Calgary is an interesting proposition. They’re firmly in a playoff spot, leading the Pacific by six points with games in hand, but their run to the Cup is going to have to go through some big names. Likely San Jose in the second round and then probably one of Winnipeg or Nashville in the Conference Finals. Bolstering their top six and their power play at the same time would go a long way.
Of all the teams linked to Zuccarello, Calgary has the deepest and most versatile prospect pool. Ignoring Rassmus Andersson and Juuso Välimäki who are likely nonstarters, a guy like Andrew Mangiapane could probably had and it would be an enormous win for Jeff Gorton given the circumstance.
This is something to keep an eye on, even for a bigger option like Hayes.
Colorado: This is more of a “where there’s smoke there’s fire” type situation. The Rangers have been scouting Colorado extensively for weeks, and talking heads in the know have linked the two at various levels, highlighted by Adrian Dater of BSNDenver saying there could be a consummation of “some magnitude.”
Since that declaration however, it’s become clear Joe Sakic isn’t really looking for a big-time rental for a team that’s probably not good enough to make a run to the Stanley Cup. They do want to stay in the playoff hunt though, which is where this has all come about from. Last week two sources confirmed to Blueshirt Banter the two teams had discussed Vlad Namestnikov and Shane Bowers was a Gorton target. Things have since stalled, presumably because the Rangers were on bye and then Colorado was.
There is a further complication here. Colorado’s farm system is top heavy, and that creates a problem when dealing with someone like Zuccarello, who is a pure rental but not an elite one. Players like Cale Makar, Tyson Jost, and Martin Kaut are off limits according to Colorado people I’ve spoken to who are in the fold. They are not trading the Ottawa pick under any circumstances. That automatically removes them from bigger deals (like Hayes), but puts them in contention for a smaller deal like Namestnikov or Zuccarello.
This is the issue on the Rangers’ end. Bowers is a nice prospect, not a great one, but a nice one. If he’s the centerpiece of a Namestnikov deal (even if it’s one-for-one), it would be hailed as an outstanding success. If Bowers is the centerpiece of a package with a middle pick for Zuccarello, it will be vastly underwhelming (although it needs to be noted the market dictates these things and losing Zuccarello for nothing is not an option).
It could also be a mystery team! Hockey trades specifically come out of nowhere, like the one with Derick Brassard on Friday!
There’s plenty of teams like Nashville, or Columbus, or Toronto, or Boston, or Tampa or anyone. Like I said above, Zuccarello fits with anyone!
So go ahead and speculate below. We’ll know soon enough!