Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rangers Looking To Trade Zuccarello? What Is His Trade Value?

A few days ago there was a report in a Swedish newspaper claiming that the New York Rangers were looking to trade Mats Zuccarello this summer.  The rumor is likely more just speculation than anything tangible, but since seeing it the other day as first posted by Puck Central, I have been pondering the likelihood something like this could be in the works.  Ten days ago I wondered how safe Mats Zuccarello’s spot on the roster was depending on how different positional battles play out during training camp.  If he is not going to play on the top three lines, then Hartford is likely the best place for him developmentally in terms of his NHL future.

Add to that the Rangers losing money due to performance bonuses and having to pay Dubinsky and likely Callahan more than most hoped they would and you have a situation where the salary cap comes into play in roster decisions as well.  Zuccarello carries a cap hit of $1.75 million this season, so a move to send him down would certainly create significant breathing room if the Rangers made it.  Does that mean they would look to move him on to another team though?

I doubt the Rangers are looking to actively shop Zuccarello anywhere as he showed flashes of the tremendous skill that made him so highly sought after last summer.  That does not mean the Rangers would not listen to offers from other teams, but getting a feel for what his value is on the trade market is a more difficult proposition.  Gauging his value is difficult because there are so few cases like his that have been around recently.

In some respects Zuccarello should be treated like trading for a prospect, but giving his accomplishments overseas there should be more value to him than just a regular mid-to-high level prospect.  Having put up 23 points in 42 NHL games as a rookie should add some to his value, especially if a team has the ability to play him in a higher level role where he can get more ice time to adjust to the league and use his skill.  Having control over Zuccarello as a restricted free agent should also add to his value in the trade market.  The only real negatives would be his larger cap hit, though that could be a positive for teams looking to hit the salary cap floor, and any lingering concerns about how his size would allow him to transition to the NHL. 

Zuccarello rumors are going to be natural while his spot on the roster is still somewhat in flux and the Rangers are anywhere near close to the cap limit, but there are other ways the Rangers can solve the cap problem if Zuccarello wins his spot on the team this fall.  If Zuke fails in camp and goes down, the talent and upside would make him worth keeping unless the Rangers get a significant offer for the man from Norway.