Mats Zuccarello (Jared Silber/NHL)
The New York Rangers were by far the busiest NHL team the day before the trade deadline – and late Sunday night, they finished up by signing winger Mats Zuccarello to a four-year, $18-million contract extension.
Rangers GM Glen Sather was far and away the busiest GM on the day before the NHL trade deadline, making deals with Arizona and Winnipeg. But going into the day, the biggest question was the future of winger Mats Zuccarello, a pending restricted free agent who had been credibly rumored to be on the trade block due to his contractual uncertainty. And according to ESPN.com, Sather managed to get that situation cleared up before the clock struck midnight, signing Zuccarello to a four-year, $18-million deal to keep him in Manhattan for the long term.
With 12 goals and 35 points in 59 games this year, the 27-year-old Zuccarello isn't enjoying the same success on offense has he did in the 2013-14 campaign (19 goals and 59 points in 77 games). Nevertheless, the speedy Norwegian has shown enough in more than five seasons with the team to have almost certainly received on the open market a significant raise from the $3.5 million he earned this year. Could he have received closer to $5 million a year instead of the $4.5 million he accepted?
It's possible, but it's also possible the team he left the Rangers for would have regretted it. Zuccarello loves playing for the organization, and for their first line that includes stars Rick Nash and Derick Brassard, so taking a little less than he could've gotten elsewhere is the smart thing for him to do. If you put him on a team with the heightened expectations that go along with a $5 million contract, it's easy to see him falling into the "trying to do too much to justify it" trap.
So instead, Zuccarello goes right back to work, on a revamped Rangers squad that looks primed for a deep playoff run. The only question now is, does Sather need to be physically restrained from making one more transaction before 3 p.m. Monday? He's giving off restless leg syndrome vibes big-time.